TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will embark on a week-long US tour next month as the two former enemies prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
In addition to talks in Washington, Abe will tour Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles during the April 26-May 3 trip, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.
Abe will become the first Japanese leader to address a joint session of the US Congress, crowning a visit which will focus on deepening trade and military ties while showcasing Tokyo’s commitment to post-war pacifism.
Few Japanese politicians have ever addressed Congress, and none have done so in a coveted joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives.
On April 28, President Barack Obama will host Abe for talks and a state dinner will be held in the Japanese prime minister’s honor that night, the White House said.
Abe will be in Washington on April 27-30, a diplomat said.
On the sidelines of Abe’s trip, the foreign and defense ministers of the two nations will hold a so-called “two-plus-two” meeting, according to Japanese media.
After their bitter battles across the Pacific during the war, Japan became a loyal US ally, housing bases for American forces and strengthening ties with its former enemy.
Japan announced its surrender on August 15, 1945.
The 60-year-old Abe’s visit comes as Washington presses Japan to mend frayed ties with fellow US ally South Korea and with China.
Beijing and Seoul will be closely watching what Abe says in a special statement to mark seven decades since the end of the war, during which its Asian neighbors suffered from Japanese militarism.
While Abe has pledged to uphold the apologies issued by previous governments, he has equivocated on a number of issues, including ordering an inquiry into how a 1993 apology for the treatment of women in Japanese military brothels was issued.