US President Barack Obama has met with Prime Minister Abe on his state visit to Japan, following a formal reception at the Imperial Palace. Tricky talks on a trade accord top the agenda, but both sides have reservations.
Barack Obama said on Thursday in Tokyo that the disputed Senkaku Islands, called Diayou by China, were covered by a US-Japanese defense pact if they came under attack. Obama also said, however, that the US had no fixed position on the sovereignty dispute itself, adding that the US would work to settle the matter diplomatically.
"We do not believe that they should be subject to change unilaterally," Obama said at a news conference with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "What is a consistent part of the alliance is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan."
The first leg of Obama's week-long Asia tour is also the first presidential visit to Japan in 18 years.
"My visit here, I think, once again represents my deep belief that a strong US-Japan relationship is not only good for our countries, but good for the world," Obama told Abe at the start of their summit on Thursday. "Our shared democratic values mean that we have to work together in multilateral settings to deal with regional hot spots around the globe, but also to try to make sure we are creating a strong set of rules that govern the international order."
As the two leaders sought to display a united front on security issues, negotiations continued on a desired trans-Pacific trade pact. Both Washington and Tokyo have major reservations, focused around protecting key national industries. Japan is hoping to establish easier access to the US car market for its exports, while the US is hoping for reduced tariffs on agricultural products such as rice and beef.
"We're continuing to work," a US negotiator told the Reuters news agency prior to the talks. "Autos and agriculture continue to be the focus, and out goal remains to achieve meaningful market access for American businesses, farmers and ranchers." He said the talks had been rolling "around the clock."
Prior to talks with Abe, Obama was formally received at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. He had an informal dinner with Abe at of Tokyo's most famous sushi restaurants.
msh/dr (AFP, AP, Reuters)