TOKYO - US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Tokyo Monday, an AFP journalist reported, on the first leg of a swing through northeast Asia at a time of heightened regional tensions.
Biden, who was greeted at the airport by new US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, will meet Japanese leaders on Tuesday, as they will be looking for robust support in their increasingly bitter dispute with China over territory.
The visit, which will see Biden meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing before heading to Seoul and a meeting with President Park Geun-Hye, comes just over a week after China declared an Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea.
It says any plane entering the zone, which covers the archipelago it contests with Japan, must file flight plans and obey its orders, on pain of unspecified "defensive emergency measures".
Japan, South Korea and the US have all disregarded China's rules amid calls on Beijing for them to be retracted.
Analysts say in his meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be looking for Biden's fulsome backing for his position that China is being unreasonable and aggressive over the issue.
But they point out that, while the US needs to reassure Tokyo, it must avoid going too far and angering Beijing or emboldening the hawkish Abe unnecessarily.
In Tokyo on Tuesday, Biden will also meet Abe's deputy Taro Aso, as well as Crown Prince Naruhito.
He heads to Beijing on Wednesday and to Seoul on Thursday.