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Obama opens Japan trip at famous sushi restaurant


TOKYO (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday opened a four-country Asia tour aimed at reassuring allies in the region that the U.S. remains a committed economic, military and political partner that can serve as a counterweight to China's growing influence.

The president kicked off his trip on an informal note, joining Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a famous Tokyo sushi restaurant with hard-to-come-by reservations and a hefty price tag. Obama and Abe greeted each other warmly outside Sukiyabashi Jiro, the underground sushi restaurant run by 88-year-old Jiro Ono.

The outing was unusually casual by Japanese standards and underscored the effort by both countries to strengthen the personal relationship between Obama and Abe.

The two leaders will hold more formal talks Thursday, with Obama aiming to promote the U.S. as a committed economic, military and political partner. But the West's dispute with Russia over Ukraine threatens to cast a shadow over the president's sales mission.

Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit

Relations between neighbors Russia and Ukraine remain tense nearly a week after both countries, the U.S. and the European Union inked an agreement in Geneva calling on Moscow to use its influence over pro-Russian forces to have them lay down their arms and end their occupation of government buildings in eastern Ukraine. Each side accuses the other of failing to uphold its end of the deal.

The White House, which lays the blame squarely on Russia and praises Ukraine for behaving responsibly, has said it is monitoring the situation closely and is prepared, without being specific about a timeline, to slap additional sanctions on Russia "in the coming days" if it fails to abide by the terms of the tenuous deal.

The U.S. response in Ukraine has unsettled some Asian countries, leaving them to wonder how reliable a partner the U.S. would be if they ever faced a similar situation given their own sea and air disputes with China. Ahead of his arrival in Tokyo, Obama sought to reassure Japan that its security pact with the U.S. does apply to the islands at the center of a territorial dispute with Beijing.

"The policy of the United States is clear," he said in a written response to questions published in Japan's Yomiuri newspaper before his arrival in Tokyo at the start of a four-country Asia tour. Obama said he opposes "unilateral attempts to undermine Japan's administration of these islands" and said the disputes need to be resolved "through dialogue and diplomacy, not intimidation and coercion."

Leaders in China will be closely watching Obama's eight-day Asia trip, particularly his efforts to show a united front with Abe. Obama and the Japanese prime minister greeted each other warmly outside the sushi restaurant Wednesday night. They were accompanied by only a handful of close advisers, including U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice.

The party was expected to be treated to Jiro's multiple-course, $300-per-person set sushi menu. The chef's meticulous preparation was detailed in the 2011 documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."

Obama's trip is a do-over of the Asia tour Obama had scheduled last October but canceled in the midst of the partial shutdown of the U.S. government. As with last fall's trip, the White House wants to keep the focus on Obama's promised "rebalance" of U.S. policy toward Asia, after years of attention on the Middle East and the fight against terrorism.

In Japan, Obama and Abe are expected to discuss trade and security concerns, including China and North Korea, among other issues. Ukraine may be on the agenda, too; Japan backs existing Western sanctions against Russia for taking the Crimean Peninsula away from Ukraine. Japan also has provided financial support to Ukraine's interim government.

The U.S. and its close regional ally Japan are the largest economies among 12 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade deal with several Asian countries that could have served as a centerpiece for Obama's visit. The U.S. had wanted to wrap up the deal by the end of last year, but the talks have stalled, with the U.S. and Japan remaining "at a considerable distance" over trade in farm products and vehicles, Japan's economy minister Akira Amari told reporters Tuesday.

No significant breakthroughs or announcements were expected this week. U.S. officials have said the talks will continue well after Obama leaves.

"The betting is against it," said Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

A U.S.-Japan agreement is seen as crucial for progress on the broader deal that would set 21st century trade rules for the dozen nations. Whenever the TPP talks conclude, Obama would face the additional burden of getting the deal through Congress, where fellow Democrats in both chambers oppose legislation that would smooth its passage.


Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.

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1000|Char. 1000  Char.
Cap'n Mikey April 23 2014 at 12:00 PM

The United States has been surrendering to Japan on trade since 1945, try to sell a Ford or Chevrolet in Tokyo. (or an American steak!) They make it nearly impossible to sell American products there, as we welcome the Toyotas, Nissans, Komatsu earthmovers, etc. Seiko watches and Canon cameras..with little or no duties. After thousands of GI's were killed taking Okinawa, we gave it back to the Japanese without demanding any reparations.

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nepatriots1941 April 23 2014 at 1:19 PM

Hurry up Karma.....!!!...We really need you...He and the Mrs. are the most disgusting things to ever fall upon our country as well as those old gold digging, uneducated, foolish, corrupt shameful American failures ever in the history of America..!!...This ass goes to all these countries and sends us all these messages(thru this corrupt news media) how wonderful all this is and we have as many as 1/3 or more of the children in this country starving...We Americans pay the tax in this country for him, illegals, welfare thieves, etc., to live off the land and do nothing to respect her....How vile is it that Obama has terrorists in the White House.. His wife has some really disturbing issues herself....Even children are refusing this lame woman's pretense to know something about feeding children and as I see that the children are refusing her interference in the menu in public schools...WTH....!!!!....Now I hear he is signing yet another "law" of his that he wants Martial Law...!!!!....AND..how about those good old banks....Now as of July 1st they will be taking control of your money and THEY(Government) will be telling YOU how much money you are allowed to take from your account....How about those apples....When are we going to take back control of our country....The ones who will suffer most are the poor and the children....I am sooo ashamed of the corrupt politicians in our once respected offices in America...And I am ashamed of America for allowing such disrespect not only for our country but our citizens, our flag, our service personnel, and our young children.....May God have mercy on our souls.....
Lela Campbell
Woodbridge, VA

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2 replies
vobox3343 nepatriots1941 April 23 2014 at 1:54 PM

What an embarrassment you are to the Old Dominion. And then to evoke the name of God after your disgusting and hateful diatribe. Oh, and if America disgusts you so, see if there is some other place you can live where you can freely speak as if mentally disturbed. You should be ashamed. But alas, no pride at all. Only the most clueless or dumbest among us would list their full name and location after spewing such garbage. An attitude change is definitely in order.

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outcold nepatriots1941 April 23 2014 at 2:19 PM


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Velocity105 April 23 2014 at 3:03 PM

In spite of the U.S.'s commitment to assist Japan in any of it's hours of need, Japan should develop it's own military forces. American carrier groups would take a long time to get there even though 1 operates near the S. China Sea fulltime. China would likely launch a blitzkrieg attack on Japan and the Philippines if it was going to and we wouldn't have time to respond, Tokyo would be in ruins.

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2 replies
roseyoungstewart Velocity105 April 23 2014 at 3:13 PM

Japan spent approx 54 billion dollars on their military budget in 2014 there is an active military there. why is it you do not know that?How far did you go in school? Oh? the 7th grade? Ok i understand .

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jdsept Velocity105 April 23 2014 at 3:20 PM

1) Japan has no military because that was the agreement after WWII. 2) China launching an attack on Japan or the Philippines would not come by sea nor be answered by sea. It would start and be answered by air, most likely nukes.

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Nicole Lee April 23 2014 at 4:57 PM

I hope they can get along together in Tokyo.

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lola_garcia5 April 23 2014 at 4:57 PM

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2 replies
stukk lola_garcia5 April 23 2014 at 5:06 PM

fool don't you see dbarr isn't interested in what you have to give away? rofl... bite on that

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1 reply
lola_garcia5 stukk April 23 2014 at 5:15 PM

Stop hating because no pretty girls want your fugly a@@!

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Faerena lola_garcia5 April 23 2014 at 5:28 PM

YES--------MARRY ME TOO----------------I KILLED MY LAST HUSBAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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bniel77644 April 23 2014 at 12:47 PM

Did he make the same reassurances to Japan of a "committed economic, military and political partner" as he did to the Ukraine??? Watch your backs Japan, when it comes to promises, this man is 'hollow" to the core!!

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johnny_lee_konkaroo April 23 2014 at 2:18 PM

i had a 6 month expat assignment in utsunomiya, japan back in 2001, working at honda's development center. as a bosch employee i was assigned a japanese manager who worked at the bosch office in yokohama. once a month, my manager and i would meet for dinner at the halfway point, tokyo. one night he took me to a famous "japanese only" sushi restaurant. when we walked in it was just like a movie: the entire restaurant went quiet and everyone stopped to stare at yours truly, the non-japanese freak. my manager had a heated conversation with the restaurant manager, and after some debate, it was barely ok that i could eat there. off come the shoes and we sit down- with many japanese patrons staring at me and giving me the stinkeye- and we proceeded to have one of the best meals in my life. i'd never had sushi before but they brought out this huge picture menu that unfolded to expose dozens and dozens of pictures of various dishes. as we swilled japanese beer (sopporo, i think) my boss would point at three or four pictures and in a few minutes small plates would appear. we'd eat off of these dishes until gone, and then my boss would repeat the process, pointing at several dishes. this went on for a few hours until we were both stone-äss drunk and stuffed with the most delicious seafood- in amazing culinary variety- i'd ever eaten. towards the end my boss asked me if there was anything i'd like to try and i told him i'd always wanted to try a good saki... out comes the saki picture menue which had dozens of types of saki; summer saki, winter saki, dry saki, sweet saki, saki for medicinal use, saki in perty bottles. i told him to pick. it was a semi sweet, cold saki that was to be drank in the traditional style. tiny wooden boxes came on a saucer and the host poured the saki so that it over-flowed onto the saucer. i was told this represents the abundance of life. then, the host brings out the minnow bucket- literally- and scoops a half dozen or so tiny little 1" long minnows into my saki box. they explained that you must cover the box quickly to prevent them from escaping until the saki makes them groggy. then you down the whole saki-minnow drink as a toast to good health.

thanks for the great dinner, boss man!

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2 replies
bkdodge4570 johnny_lee_konkaroo April 23 2014 at 2:30 PM

You had right up until the end.........
deeeeeeeeeeeeeee SGUSTING.

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1 reply
johnny_lee_konkaroo bkdodge4570 April 23 2014 at 2:45 PM

well, i was very drunk, just ate a bunch of food that i didn't even know what most of it was, and couldn't embarrass my manager after he bullied the restaurant guy into letting me eat there.

i wasn't crazy about the live minnow thing, but that was only necessary for the first drink. after that, we polished off the bottle which was pretty damn good hooch.

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roseyoungstewart johnny_lee_konkaroo April 23 2014 at 2:48 PM

your post is much too long and untrue.

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1 reply
UniquePlants roseyoungstewart April 23 2014 at 3:01 PM

How is the blue blazes do you -rbostonbred- know that is was untrue? A good story sometimes needs a while to tell. Maybe some day you can go to Japan or somewhere else besides Boston and have a meal paid for by someone else and you can eat and drink what they like and you will have a story as long if not longer.

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AOL ONLY on scr April 23 2014 at 5:56 PM

Sorry for impass with Japan.

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grayfox994 April 23 2014 at 12:50 PM

It's always nice to know the Obama's are 'sharing" the pain caused by his woeful leadership...

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pdc458 April 23 2014 at 3:43 PM

Why does he look stoned in that pic?

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1 reply
Richard pdc458 April 23 2014 at 3:49 PM

Jet Lag, limo couldn't swim the water.

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