70 years after WWII: Confidence between leaders builds foundation

70 years after WWII: Confidence between leaders builds foundation
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tours the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts.

This is the fourth and final instalment of a series.

To prepare for a visit to the United States, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a study meeting with senior Foreign Ministry officials at the Prime Minister's Office on Friday.

Their activities were limited to confirming the details of a timetable drawn up for Abe's visit, leaving full-fledged preparations for their next meeting, including those for Japan-US summit talks as well as Abe's speech to the US Congress.

The upcoming meeting between Abe and US President Barack Obama will be the seventh of its kind. When they held their first talks two years ago, Abe gave a Japan-made putter to Obama, knowing the US president enjoys playing golf.

When Obama visited Japan in April last year, Abe entertained the president by taking him to a sushi restaurant in Tokyo's Ginza district. The prime minister had been told Obama is fond of sushi.

But whether such efforts helped Abe forge deeper personal ties with the US leader is hard to tell, given Obama's "businesslike" reputation.

"Not a single joke was made during the business dinner that lasted an hour and a half," Abe told his aides after dining with Obama at the sushi bar, apparently surprised at Obama's steadfast focus on his presidential duties.

To strengthen bilateral ties, the prime minister needs to tackle the essential task of forging relations in a wide range of areas between Japan and the United States.

Abe's attempt to approach the US Congress stems from such developments.

Ahead of his visit to the United States, Abe worked to build connections with Republican House Speaker John Boehner via the Japanese Embassy in Washington.

Abe will be the first Japanese prime minister to deliver a speech during a joint session of the US House and the Senate.

An increasing number of US politicians expressed expectations about Abe's speech. Daniel Russel, an assistant secretary of the US State Department, said the speech will symbolize reconciliation between Japan and the United States.

But Abe is regarded by some in the United States as a historical revisionist who rejects the postwar regime.

"We're expecting [the prime minister's visit] to cause some repercussions over the issue of comfort women and Japan's historical views," said an aide to Abe.

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