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NBR Voices: What You Should Know about Japanese Prime Minister Abe's Visit to the United States

In this feature, NBR experts highlight key areas to watch during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's upcoming visit to Washington, D.C. On April 28, Prime Minister Abe will attend a state dinner at the White House hosted in his honor by President Obama. On April 29, Abe will address a joint session of Congress. What issues are on the forefront of Abe's mind as he prepares to visit President Obama and meet with government officials and private sector representatives across the country? What does the United States hope to get out of Abe's trip?

The following quotes are an ideal starting point for those tracking Prime Minister Abe's visit, and will help observers identify central challenges currently impacting the U.S.-Japan relationship.


"Japan is in the midst of a sea change in its foreign policy strategy. The change has been taking place incrementally since the end of the Cold War, and under Prime Minister Abe the pace is picking up. In the near term, his policies will bring about a tighter U.S.-Japan alliance but also a more assertive Japan. Historically, Japan has always adapted to perceived changes in the international order. Today, that structure is changing, given the travails of the U.S.-led order and the likelihood of a multipolar order in its place. In this context, the long-term goals of Abe remain unclear as he has yet to articulate a vision of what role a more independent Japan would pursue."

Henry M. Jackson Professor of History and Asian Studies at
the University of Washington and Founding President of NBR


"Prime Minister Abe's visit to the United States should give even more momentum to the tremendous partnership that the United States and Japan have shared in the past decades. With both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the revisions of the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines nearing completion, our countries have the opportunity to work closer together to lead the region into a future that is more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic."

Chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA
NBR Board of Directors
Former U.S. Director of National Intelligence

"The U.S.-Japan alliance is close to taking another critical step in its fundamental realignment. Once the new defense guidelines are finalized, and if both sides can successfully join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Washington and Tokyo will have shifted the alliance to one that is more comprehensive, more equal, and better prepared to take on the geopolitical challenges we will face in the future. Yet both Abe and Obama face political hurdles at home to make their shared vision a reality. Overcoming these hurdles will be both a test and a demonstration of their abilities to lead."

NBR President

"The U.S.-Japan alliance has an opportunity to play a vital role in advancing our mutual interests and facing the emerging challenges of the twenty-first century, including a burgeoning geopolitical competition with China, a more belligerent North Korea, and intensifying regional threat of natural disasters. This visit by Prime Minister Abe is exquisitely timed, and the need for greater cooperation between our two nations is absolutely essential in an increasingly complex and consequential Asia-Pacific."

Senior Vice President of Political and Security Affairs & External Relations

"The memory of his grandfather, Kishi Nobusuke, who spoke at the House of Representatives as Japanese prime minister in 1957, will loom large as Prime Minister Abe addresses Congress. Sixty years on, the U.S.-Japan alliance is growing stronger."

Senior Project Director for Political and Security Affairs


"The conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is central to Prime Minister Abe's efforts to rejuvenate Japan's economy through fiscal stimulus, monetary easing, and structural reforms, and the TPP will be a focal point for Abe and Obama's discussions. Positive movement from Congress on granting President Obama Trade Promotion Authority would add positive momentum to wrapping up the negotiation."

Senior Vice President of Trade, Economic, and Energy Affairs;
Director of NBR's Washington, D.C., office


"As the review of the U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation Guidelines is close to being finalized, the bilateral alliance will expand cooperation in missile defense, surveillance, and maritime security. Such a close security relationship is unprecedented and will act as a powerful force for stability in Asia."

Senior Project Director for Political and Security Affairs


"President Obama has previously asserted that the 'Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.' Nothing has changed since he articulated that to Japanese media last year, and China has surely gotten the message. We might expect further enhancement of bilateral military ties, likely not explicitly tied to the Senkakus to avoid provoking Beijing, to ensure there is no perceived weakening of U.S. commitment."

Senior Advisor


"Prime Minister Abe's visit will help set the tone for events marking the 70th anniversary of World War II that will be hosted across Asia in 2015. Abe's visit will focus less on trade and more on commemorating the war and the bilateral alliance. The United States will try to strike the right tone between solemnly recognizing the tragedies of World War II and acknowledging how far the U.S.-Japan relationship has come since the end of the war."

Assistant Director of External Relations, Congressional & Media Outreach


"With climate change on the agenda for PM Abe's visit, observers should take note of what both sides say—and don't say—about the future of coal in the Asia-Pacific. Although there has been significant attention paid to the role that other fuels can play in meeting environmental targets, coal is projected to remain a dominant element of the region's energy mix through at least 2035. And even in the United States, nearly 40% of our electricity still comes from coal-powered generation. As a result, any major discussion between PM Abe and President Obama on how to meet our shared climate change goals should also focus on how to strengthen the efficient use of coal and mitigate CO2 emissions."

Director of Trade, Economic, and Energy Affairs

"The United States and Japan have demonstrated important differences when it comes to coal plant financing and on regional coal trade, both areas where United States and Japanese efforts have been hotly debated in domestic and international media. It will be interesting to see what kind of attention these issues receive during PM Abe's visit, and whether we might see opportunities emerge to deepen U.S.-Japan collaboration."

Director of Trade, Economic, and Energy Affairs


"Observers hope that in his address to Congress, Abe will make some rhetorical overtures toward reconciliation with South Korea. The United States hopes that its close allies in Northeast Asia will be able to resolve controversies regarding wartime sex slavery and the Dokdo-Takeshima islets that have long wounded the Japan–South Korea relationship and complicated the U.S. rebalance to Asia."

Assistant Director of External Relations, Congressional & Media Outreach