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Obama Begins Asia Tour in Japan

U.S. President Barack Obama began the first full day of his state visit to Japan Thursday with a call on Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace.

Mr. Obama was greeted at the park-like complex by a military honor guard, and children holding U.S. and Japanese flags. The president also had a private meeting with the emperor.

He was to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later in the day.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Abe met Wednesday for dinner at Tokyo's famed sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro. The restaurant is run by 88-year-old Jiro Ono, whose meticulous technique was detailed in the 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Mr. Abe told reporters the president praised the meal as "the best sushi he had had in his life.''

Security concerns about China's territorial claims and North Korea's nuclear program will be a major focus of Mr. Obama's trip, which includes stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Japan is embroiled in a growing dispute with Beijing over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

Ahead of his visit, Mr. Obama told Japan's Yomiuri newspaper the United States opposes "any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan's administration of these islands." He also stressed the islands fall under a treaty that requires the U.S. to defend Japan if attacked.

Mr. Obama also will try to make progress with Japan on the long-delayed Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal. But many say Japan's reluctance to drop tariffs on agricultural products makes chances of a breakthrough slim.st optional))

From Tokyo, President Obama will head to Seoul, where he will talk with South Korean President Park Geun-hye about how to deal with North Korea, which some believe is preparing to conduct another nuclear test.

In Malaysia, Mr. Obama will hold talks and attend a state dinner with Prime Minister Najib Razak. He will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit Malaysia since Lyndon Johnson traveled there in 1966.

Mr. Obama's last stop will be the Philippines, which is also involved in a territorial standoff with China and has deepened its military cooperation with Washington as a result.

This is Mr. Obama's fifth visit to Asia since assuming office in 2009. He has promised to make the Pacific region a greater economic, diplomatic, and military priority for the United States.

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