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July 29, 2017

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Bolster Japan-US ties to up stability

The high expectations the U.S. government holds for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became clear during his visit to Washington. To live up to the U.S. trust placed in him, the prime minister should restore the vitality of Japan's politics and economy.

Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama held their first talks at the White House and agreed to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

"The U.S.-Japan alliance is the central foundation for our regional security, and so much of what we do in the (Asia-)Pacific region," Obama said.

Abe replied that he wants to declare the strong bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance has been restored completely.

Cooperation on Energy

Asia has many destabilizing factors, such as China and North Korea. To maintain peace and prosperity in this part of the world, Japan and the United States must properly play their respective roles based on the robust, stable bilateral alliance that is "public property" of the region.

Japan-U.S. ties became disoriented while Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led administrations held power for more than three years. Seemingly going hand-in-hand with this, Japan's relations with China and South Korea also deteriorated.

The Obama administration apparently believes that restoring U.S. relations with Japan under the Abe administration would bring greater stability to the entire Asian region and benefit its own strategy that gives greater priority to Asia.

The two leaders issued a joint statement on Japan's possible participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement negotiations. Abe and Obama confirmed "it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations," though they maintained the basic principle that all goods would be subject to the negotiations.

Before his visit to the United States, Abe reiterated that he would uphold his Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) election pledge that the party not join the TPP talks as long as it mandates all tariffs must be eliminated without exception.

The latest Japan-U.S. agreement, which allows Abe to maintain his pledge and join the TPP talks, carries great significance.

TPP participation, which will enable Japan to harness the vitality of emerging Asian economies, is expected to become a major pillar for the growth strategy of the Abe administration's "Abenomics" economic policy and help the recovery of the nation's economy.

However, some LDP members and agricultural organizations remain strongly opposed to the TPP. Abe must exercise leadership and carefully explain the aims of the trade pact to calibrate opinions within the country as soon as possible to make Japan's participation in the agreement a reality.

The participation of Japan, the world's third-largest economy, in the TPP will have advantages for the United States, too. Formation of a free trade area featuring the Japan-U.S. partnership will have the effect of putting pressure on emerging China.

During their meeting, Abe asked Obama to promptly approve U.S. exports of shale gas to Japan. The president replied that his government always takes the importance of Japan as its ally into consideration.

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