On February 12, the White House announced that President Obama will visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in late April. The announcement prompted Japanese media to question what the decision to add Seoul to Obama’s tour means for Japan.
Some link the move with U.S. concerns over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s view of history aggravating Japan’s relations with its neighbors. Others regard the development as a diplomatic victory on the part of Seoul, having successfully made the case for Obama’s visit to Seoul following his stop at Tokyo. Either way, these arguments reflect the reality that Abe’s Yasukuni Shrine visit on December 26 last year continues to cast a shadow over Tokyo’s relations with Washington.
In fact, ties between the two countries remain frayed in the weeks following Abe’s controversial visit. The U.S. Embassy issued a statement on behalf of the government shortly afterwards, expressing disappointment which was received with a great deal of negative reaction in Japan.
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This op-ed published in The Japan News on February 21, 2014.