December 19, 2014
Obama begins Asian trip to reassure allies
US President Barack Obama arrived in Tokyo today at the start of a four-nation trip to reassure allies of US commitment to Asia, at a time of rising tension in the region.
Obama has said Washington welcomes China's rise but that engagement with Beijing would not come at the expense of its Asian allies - as Chinese state media greeted his arrival in the region with a broadside accusing the United States of wanting to "cage" the emerging superpower.
Obama told Japan's Yomiuri newspaper, in written remarks: "In other words, we welcome the continuing rise of a China that is stable, prosperous and peaceful and plays a responsible role in global affairs."
He added: "And our engagement with China does not and will not come at the expense of Japan or any other ally."
The reassuring remarks aimed at Japan and other allies, set against a robust commentary from China's state news agency Xinhua that also called the United States "myopic", demonstrate the delicate balancing act Obama faces on a week-long Asia tour.
Obama, who is making the first full state visit to Japan by a US President since 1996, must assuage worries by Tokyo and other allies that his commitment to their defence in the face of an increasingly assertive China is weak, without hurting vital US ties with Asia's biggest economy.
In the first stop of his Asian trip, Barack Obama dined sushi today with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
This informal welcome will be followed by an official meeting with Japanese emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace, a joint press briefing with Abe and an official banquet.
On Friday Obama will continue his trip to South Korea, followed by Malaysia on Saturday and a last stop at Philipines next Monday.