Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Japanese PM sets 1st visit to U.S.

Source: CNN.

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Japan's prime minister will make his first trip to the U.S. as premier this month for summit talks on North Korea and Iraq, against a backdrop of renewed controversy over Japan's use of military brothels during World War II.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will travel the United States April 26-27 and hold meetings with U.S. President George W. Bush at Camp David before traveling to the Middle East, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki announced Wednesday.

The visit comes at a sensitive time, with U.S. lawmakers considering a nonbinding resolution urging Japan to apologize formally for forcing thousands of women into the brothels.

Abe has come under fire at home and abroad for suggesting in early March that there is no proof that the Imperial government or military coerced women into the brothels during the war, apparently backtracking a 1993 apology.

In a 20-minute phone call with Bush late Tuesday to prepare for the trip, Abe said he stands by the government's landmark 1993 apology. Abe said he broached the subject to clarify any misunderstandings.

"Since my remarks on the so-called comfort women issue have not been accurately reported, I expressed my true intention to President Bush just to clarify," Abe said.

Bush told Abe that he appreciated his candor and noted that Japan today is not the Japan of World War II, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in Washington on Tuesday.

The upcoming meeting will not be Abe's first with Bush. The two leaders met on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim summit in Vietnam last year, after Abe took office in September.

Iraq, North Korea on agenda

The U.S. summit will touch on the ongoing war in Iraq, for which Japan has provided noncombat military support, as well as the six-nation talks on reining in North Korea's nuclear program, Shiozaki said.

"We hope to confirm that the Japan-U.S. alliance is a stabilizing factor for the region, and we plan to discuss ways to strengthen the alliance for the world and for Asia," Shiozaki said.

Japanese prime ministers usually visit the U.S., Japan's biggest ally, soon after taking office, but Abe has stressed his all-around foreign policy by visiting Europe and Asian neighbors first.

Abe told reporters Wednesday that the alliance with the U.S. is "the basis for our diplomacy and security" and added that he hopes to strengthen ties with Washington. About 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan under a mutual security pact as a legacy of World War II.

After the U.S. visit, Abe will head to the Middle East for meetings with leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt, he said. Those discussions will include the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Iraq war and Iran's nuclear ambitions, Shiozaki said.

"The Middle Eastern region, especially the countries in the Gulf area, are extremely important for Japan's energy security," he said. "We plan to discuss ways to achieve stability in the Middle East."

Last week, Japan's parliament approved a two-year extension of its airlift mission in support of Iraqi reconstruction. Tokyo had earlier backed the U.S.-led invasion and provided troops for a non-combat, humanitarian mission in the southern city of Samawah beginning in 2004.

Japan withdrew its ground troops in July 2006, and has since expanded its Kuwait-based air operations.

Abe's visit to the United States follows a string of other overseas calls and marks a break with tradition for new Japanese leaders who have tended to prioritize U.S. summits.

Abe made his first overseas trip as prime minister to Beijing and Seoul in early October. He visited Vietnam for a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November. Abe also met with Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the Philippines last month. Abe continued his travels to Europe.

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At 4/04/2007 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BACKGROUND OF 'COMFORT WOMEN' ISSUE / No hard evidence of coercion in recruitment of comfort women

BACKGROUND OF 'COMFORT WOMEN' ISSUE / Comfort station originated in govt-regulated 'civilian prostitution'

BACKGROUND OF 'COMFORT WOMEN' ISSUE / Kono's statement on 'comfort women' created misunderstanding

At 4/05/2007 3:27 AM, Blogger Rosemary said...

Thank you for the links. From the brief summaries, I'm not sure what to make of it. Are you saying that these women were not forced to do this?

My beef with CNN is that, what does this have to do with the meeting? It is just like CNN to take anything good and positive and turn it into something sordid. Tacky, wouldn't you say? Have a nice day.


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