Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in the U.S. Sunday for a week-long visit to showcase the success of the alliance built from Tokyo's defeat in World War II, while promoting a political agenda based on still stronger military and economic ties.
The visit will take Abe from Boston to the Silicon Valley, with ample time for hobnobbing with high-flying businesspeople like the founders of Facebook and Apple, Japanese scholars and celebrities.
With no major trade or economic deals expected, the aim, officials in Tokyo said, is to confirm an upgrading of joint defense guidelines and to advertise the bright side of Japan and its people, including Americans of Japanese ancestry, and possibly sell some bullet train systems.
Abe is first among several leaders of Asia, including China and South Korea, planning to visit the U.S. this year, a sign of Washington's growing attention to the region. He arrived in Boston Sunday night for a stop at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and a dinner hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry.
He can point to his brief summit the week before with Chinese President Xi Jinping as a sign of improving relations, despite lingering friction over Japan's wartime history and territorial disputes. Abe still hasn't met bilaterally with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye, due to a dispute over his stance on the issue of sex slaves - women forced to work in military brothels during the war.
But he will acknowledge the wartime past with a visit to the Holocaust Memorial National Museum. Abe also will go to Arlington National Cemetery and pay respects to Japanese-American war dead at the ``Go for Broke'' memorial.
``I plan to deliver a message that Japan and the United States, based on our strong ties, will together build peace and prosperity in the 21st century and open a new era,'' Abe told reporters Sunday just before his departure.
He is to speak at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government on Monday. Later, he will travel to Washington for talks with President Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, he will become the first Japanese leader to address a joint session of Congress, and likely will seek to tilt the balance in favor of Obama's request for ``fast-track'' rules to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation U.S.-led trade initiative. Recent ministerial-level talks between Japan and the United States have made progress, but officials say they don't expect a major breakthrough during Abe's visit.