Obama meets with Japanese premier
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama told Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso yesterday that the United States wanted to strengthen ties with Japan, a country Obama described as the cornerstone of US security policy in East Asia and a major economic partner.
Aso, who is struggling to stay in power, was the first foreign leader to visit the Obama White House, and the president called the prestigious invitation "a testimony to the strong partnership between the United States and Japan."
"The friendship between the United States and Japan is extraordinarily important to our country," Obama told reporters. "We think that we have an opportunity to work together, not only on issues related to the Pacific Rim but throughout the world."
The Japanese leader, sitting next to Obama in the Oval Office before their private meeting, said the world's top two economies "will have to work together hand in hand" to solve the "very critical, vital issue of the world."
Aso has faced single-digit approval ratings, appeals from his own party to resign and Japan's worst recession in 50 years.
His selection as the first foreign leader to meet with Obama, however, shows the new administration is interested in sending a message, to Tokyo and to the world, that Japan, a sometimes-neglected ally, remains a vital partner in addressing global economic and security crises.