WASHINGTON - The Japan-US summit meeting on Tuesday, which was held during a memorial year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, demonstrated how the Japan-US alliance has entered a new phase both in the fields of security and economy.
Japan and the United States have long been working to maintain order in Asia. It is significant that the two nations confirmed their unity at the meeting, just when China is attempting to change the status quo.
The White House lawn was lush green under fine weather as Japan's national anthem "Kimigayo" was played, followed by a 19-gun salute to mark the state visit.
During the arrival ceremony held Tuesday morning prior to the summit talks, US President Barack Obama spared no effort in praising Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, referring to Abe's grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi.
"In 1960, President [Dwight] Eisenhower welcomed Prime Minister Abe's grandfather, Prime Minister Kishi, here to the White House," Obama said.
"Today, we welcome Prime Minister Abe as we broaden our alliance for our time ... Prime Minister Abe is leading Japan to a new role on the world stage."
"Since I took office, the top priority of my foreign policy has been to revitalise the alliance between Japan and the United States," Abe responded. "And now, our bilateral relationship is more robust than ever."
When Abe arrived in Washington the previous day, Obama himself escorted Abe to the Lincoln Memorial to give a tour. The two leaders talked as they walked shoulder-to-shoulder for about 20 minutes.
Obama is known for his great admiration of Abraham Lincoln, the former US president known as the "Great Emancipator." He has visited the memorial many times. For the US public, Lincoln is a symbol of liberty and democracy.
The Lincoln Memorial tour was originally not on Abe's schedule, which came about from a proposal by the U.S side. The tour was probably aiming at highlighting the close ties between Japan and the United States, which share common values.
'Shinzo, thank you'
The US president's unusual display of hospitality reflects Abe's efforts to march side-by-side with the United States in the fields of security and economy to maintain order in Asia.
In terms of security, Abe has pushed forward the comprehensive review of the nation's legal framework on national security, at the core of which lies the limited exercise of the right of collective self-defence. The prime minister has also worked to reinforce the alliance's deterrence against China's maritime advances by revising the Japan-US guidelines for bilateral defence co-operation.
In the field of economy, Japan has worked closely with the United States to lead negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade agreement.
Japan's efforts go hand-in-hand with the US policy of "rebalance," which focuses on the Asia-Pacific region.
Obama praised Abe's efforts during a joint press conference held after the summit meeting. "He [Abe] is pursuing a vision of Japan where the Japanese economy is reinvigorated and where Japan makes greater contributions to security and peace in the region and around the world. So Shinzo, thank you," Obama said.
In response, Abe borrowed words from the famous inauguration speech of former President John F. Kennedy, saying: "My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of mankind."
"Japan wants to be a country that can respond to such calls," Abe said, stressing his willingness to contribute to the international community based on his policy of "proactive contribution to peace."
The Japan-US alliance had once become adrift when the Democratic Party of Japan held the reins of government. The alliance appears to be shifting from a phase of reconstruction to co-operation, in which the two countries must work together to maintain order in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the rest of the world.
Abe will be tested on his ability to put into effect such frameworks as the new Japan-US guidelines and the TPP multilateral trade agreement.