Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has become the first foreign leader to visit U.S. President Barack Obama. The leaders of the world's two biggest economies discussed the global financial crisis, among other issues.
President Obama says the fact that Prime Minister Aso is the first foreign leader to meet with him in the Oval Office is a testimony to the strong partnership between the United States and Japan.
"We think that we have an opportunity to work together, not only on issues related to the Pacific Rim, but throughout the world," he said.
Japan has the world's second largest economy, and holds more U.S. Treasury bonds than any country but China. Mr. Aso says only the U.S. and Japan have economies that are strong enough to bring changes in the global recession.
"We are the number one and second biggest economies of the world," he said. "We will have to work together, hand in hand."
Security issues were also expected to play a big part in the meeting. Japan is working with the United States and three other countries to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. In addition, about 50,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed in Japan. Mr. Obama says the U.S. security relationship with Japan is crucial, and must be made even stronger.
"The alliance that we have is the cornerstone of security in East Asia," he said. "It is one that my administration wants to strengthen."
Other issues on the agenda were global warming, terrorism, and the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
The two leaders' political fortunes are very different. After about one month in office, Mr. Obama has the support of almost 70 percent of Americans polled. A Japanese newspaper says Prime Minister Aso's approval rating is 11 percent.
Japan must hold parliamentary elections by the end of September, and many people believe Mr. Aso's Liberal Democratic party will lose control of parliament.
Prime Minister Aso's early White House visit, as well as Hillary Clinton's decision to make Japan the destination of her first overseas trip as secretary of state, are sending important signals to Japan. Some in Tokyo have been concerned about increasing U.S. cooperation with China on diplomatic, economic and military issues.