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October 01, 2013

Kerry to Discuss Japan Security, Regional Trade on Asia Trip

by VOA News

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is starting a six-day trip to Asia to strengthen security cooperation with Japan and promote free trade among Asia-Pacific economies.

Kerry is due to arrive in Tokyo on Wednesday, a day before participating in a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, which last gathered in Washington in 2011.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will join Kerry at the talks with Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

Japan's Kyodo news agency said the two sides will discuss revising decades-old security arrangements to reflect what Japan sees as new challenges from China's more assertive maritime activities in disputed waters.

Secretary Kerry is set to travel from Tokyo to the Indonesian island of Bali on Friday for a ministerial meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation [APEC] forum.

Washington sees APEC's 21-member economies as a premier forum for boosting regional trade and investment, and helping to achieve a goal of rebalancing U.S. policy toward Asia.

Kerry has spent much of his eight months in office on other diplomatic efforts, particularly those aimed at resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict.

U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to join Kerry in Bali for an APEC summit on Saturday, the first day of a four-nation presidential tour of Asia. Obama also is due to visit Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

It is not clear, though, whether Obama will stick to his original plan for the trip, as he deals with a shutdown of the U.S. federal government in a budgetary dispute with his Republican opponents.

Published reports say Obama hopes to use the APEC summit to push for progress in negotiations on a regional free trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The 12 nations involved in the negotiations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.