Obama Announces Asia Itinerary; South Korea Stop Included
Feb. 13, 2014 (LPAC)–The White House said Wednesday that President Obama would visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines on his April Asia trip.
The visit has been long planned but without a fixed itinerary except for the Japan stop and with a China visit quite unlikely. (Secretary of State John Kerry will be in Beijing this Friday.)
South Korea had made it known that it would consider being bypassed a sign of America siding with Japan in historical and territorial, South Korean-Japanese issues. South Korea is also concerned by the Japanese moves to annul a key anti-war section of the Japanese constitution by decree.
Japanese officials have been envisioning the Obama trip as a grand affair, with the American President treated as a state guest, so as to taunt both China and South Korea with the strength of the Japanese-U.S. alliance. That designation traditionally means that the President meets with the Emperor. “We are making preparations on the assumption that it will be a state visit,” said Hikariko Ono, a spokeswoman for Japanese Prime Minister Abe, despite speculation that the President’s time in Tokyo would be limited by the addition of Seoul to his itinerary.
Besides security issues in Japan and South Korea, Obama is expected to push for Japanese Tariff concessions on the TPP.
In the Philippines, the issue of increased basing of “rotating” American troops is expected to top the agenda.
The announced objectives for the Malaysia stop are vague. A White house spokesman said the President will meet with Prime Minister Najib Razak to highlight “substantial progress” made in deepening bilateral diplomatic, economic, and defense ties. Malaysia is known to be strongly resisting some of the more onerous provisions of the TPP, hindering Obama’s agenda.