Washington: President George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe share a love of baseball, a common interest that may just nurture a friendship which both leaders are keen to nurture amid mounting security concerns regarding the two nations.
After dining at the White House on 26April with their spouses, the leaders will meet at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland for talks followed by a joint news conference and luncheon.
Abe’s two-day US visit is his first since becoming prime minister in September. The effort to persuade N Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme, China’s growing military might and the Iraq war are on the agenda.
Bush considered Abe’s predecessor Junichiro Koizumi one of his best friends. When they toured Elvis’s Graceland mansion together last year, the charismatic Koizumi donned sunglasses and belted out lyrics from the singer’s most famous hits much to the delight of the international media.
Abe has a lower-key personality but, like Koizumi, wants to see Japan take on a more assertive role in global security, an effort Washington has encouraged. Abe has made rewriting Japan’s pacifist constitution a top goal.
“I want to stress this global alliance which transcends the Koizumi administration,” Wilder said. “We think the Japanese have an important role to play internationally and are convinced that the role can be bigger still.”
China’s rapidly rising defense spending is also expected to be discussed. On N Korea, which missed a deadline under a February deal to shut down its nuclear reactor, some Japanese are worried about an apparent softening of Washington’s stance.
Japan is expected to remain adamant that Tokyo, which participated in six-party talks aimed N Korea’s nuclear disarmament, would not give Pyongyang aid until it sees progress in a feud over its citizens abducted decades ago.
Another issue shadowing the summit is an international controversy stirred after Abe denied there was proof that Japan’s government or military had forced women to work in military brothels during World War Two.