| As U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to pay a state visit to Japan for three days, up from the previously planned two days, at Japan`s strong request, attention is being drawn to Tokyo`s "gift" to Washington in return for the extended visit. The U.S. president was expected to spend one night equally in Seoul and Tokyo, respectively, but changed the plan as Japan strongly insisted that his state visit to Tokyo include two nights.
Japan`s strong request for Obama`s state visit is Tokyo`s attempt to recover its soured ties with Washington following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe`s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors Japan`s war dead, including Class-A war criminals.
Japan seems to have prepared a "gift" for Obama. Japanese daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported Wednesday that Obama and Abe met alone for 10 minutes on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands on March 25, consenting to make an overall agreement on negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral free trade agreement, by late April. So far, the TPP negotiations have been sailing through rough seas because Japan insisted on excluding "five sensitive items" (rice, barley, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar) from tariff abolishment.
With an eye to the mid-term elections in October, Obama can expect to show off his accomplishment if he concludes the TPP negotiations during his state visit to Japan. Abe also needs a breakthrough that would drive the Japanese economy following the April 1 consumption tax increase.
The U.S. government expects that Japan`s lifting on April 1 of its decades-old ban on weapons exports will serve as a catalyst for bilateral military exchanges and defense industrial growth.