US President Barack Obama has landed in Tokyo to launch an Asian tour dedicated to reinvigorating his policy of “rebalancing” US foreign policy towards a dynamic Asia.
Obama landed aboard Air Force One on Wednesday to begin a state visit to Japan, which comes as regional tensions boil over maritime territorial disputes and fears that North Korea could soon carry out a new nuclear test.
On Wednesday evening Obama will have a one-on-one dinner with Abe, reportedly at an exclusive sushi restaurant in the basement of an ageing office building in the glitzy Ginza district of Tokyo.
Over dinner Obama will likely try to reassure Abe that the US is focused on Asia following its foreign policy “rebalancing” eastwards, analysts say.
On this trip Obama must walk a tightrope between calming Chinese fears of US encirclement and bolstering regional allies.
Manila, the final leg of the tour, will be looking for reassurances from its protector in chief.
Having mounted a plucky stand over disputed South China Sea reefs against the might of Beijing, the Philippines needs to be told the US still has its back.
Tokyo frets Washington may not offer wholehearted support if push came to shove over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus.
After a formal summit with Abe on Thursday morning, Obama will visit Meiji Jingu, a shrine built in honour of a former imperial couple, before attending a state banquet with the present-day head of state.
He heads to Seoul on Friday. Obama is also visiting Malaysia on the week-long tour.