In robot summit, Obama bows to and plays soccer with ASIMO

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In robot summit, Obama bows to and plays soccer with ASIMO
President Barack Obama and ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative MObility, bow to each other during a youth science event at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, known as the Miraikan, in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Showing solidarity with Japan, Obama affirmed Thursday that the U.S. would be obligated to defend Tokyo in a confrontation with Beijing over a set of disputed islands, but urged all sides to resolve the long-running dispute peacefully. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
US President Barack Obama (2nd L) bows to Honda's humanoid robot ASIMO (R), an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative MObility, as he tours the Miraikan Science Expo in Tokyo on April 24, 2014. Obama earlier vowed to defend Japan if China attacks over a tense territorial dispute, but also urged Beijing to help stop North Korea from forging ahead with its 'dangerous' nuclear programme. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - APRIL 24: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) watches Honda Motor Co humanoid robot ASIMO (1st R) hops with the Miraikan (national museum for emerging science and innovation) chief executive dierector Mamoru Mohri (3rd R) on April 24, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. The U.S. President is on an Asian tour where he is due to visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Philippines. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) stops a football that was kicked to him by humanoid robot ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative MObility, as he tours the Miraikan Science Expo in Tokyo on April 24, 2014. Obama earlier vowed to defend Japan if China attacks over a tense territorial dispute, but also urged Beijing to help stop North Korea from forging ahead with its 'dangerous' nuclear programme. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama kicks a ball passed to him by a robot namesd ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, as he attends a youth science event at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, known as the Miraikan, in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. At right is Japanese astronaut Mamoru Mohri, and director of the Museum. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
US President Barack Obama (2nd L) talks to chief executive director of the Miraikan Museum, Mamoru Mohri (2nd R), about Honda's humanoid robot ASIMO (R), an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative MObility, as student Nao Yamamoto (L) and student Iida Satoru (3rd L) look on, as he tours the Miraikan Science Expo in Tokyo on April 24, 2014. Obama earlier vowed to defend Japan if China attacks over a tense territorial dispute, but also urged Beijing to help stop North Korea from forging ahead with its 'dangerous' nuclear programme. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) positions a football as he talks with Honda's humanoid robot ASIMO (R), an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative MObility, student Nao Yamamoto (L), student Iida Satoru (2nd L) and chief executive director of the Miraikan Museum, Mamoru Mohri (2nd R), as he tours the Miraikan Science Expo in Tokyo on April 24, 2014. Obama earlier vowed to defend Japan if China attacks over a tense territorial dispute, but also urged Beijing to help stop North Korea from forging ahead with its 'dangerous' nuclear programme. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama walks with Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Facing fresh questions about his commitment to Asia, Obama will seek to convince Japan’s leaders Thursday that he can deliver on his security and economic pledges, even as the crisis in Ukraine demands U.S. attention and resources elsewhere. The ominous standoff between Ukraine and Russia threatens to overshadow Obama’s four-country Asia swing. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Obama said Thursday that he wants to see a dispute between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea resolved peacefully, while affirming that America's mutual security treaty with Japan applies to the islands. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama pauses during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Japanese Emperor Akihito stands to speak as President Barack Obama, center, and Empress Michiko are seated during a state dinner at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Opening a four-country swing through the Asia-Pacific region, Obama is 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. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama signs a prayer tablet to place on the Votive Tree as he tours the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Opening a four-country swing through the Asia-Pacific region, Obama is 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. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama attends a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Junko Kimura-Matsumoto, Pool)
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, reviews an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Facing fresh questions about his commitment to Asia, Obama will seek to convince Japan's leaders Thursday that he can deliver on his security and economic pledges, even as the crisis in Ukraine demands U.S. attention and resources elsewhere. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, Pool)
U.S. President Barack Obama waves from the doorway of Air Force One upon his arrival at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Obama is in Japan for a three-day state visit. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
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By DARLENE SUPERVILLE and MARI YAMAGUCHI

TOKYO (AP) -- The voice was slightly halting, childlike. "Welcome to Miraikan, Mr. President, it is a pleasure to meet you."

President Barack Obama bowed, looking delighted.

His greeter, after all, was a 55-inch-tall, give or take, humanoid robot with the look of a diminutive Star Wars storm trooper.

"It's nice to meet you, too," Obama said, pausing to watch the robot, named ASIMO, perform during a tour of the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

Despite Obama's background in constitutional law, there's a presidential geek side that always seems charmed, if not bemused, by technological advances.

Asimo, made by Honda, announced "I can really run fast" before loping toward a soccer ball and informing Obama, "I can kick a soccer ball, too."

The robot delivered a well-aimed ball at Obama who trapped it neatly with his foot. For its final demonstration, the robot declared, "Recently I have learned how to jump." It then proceeded to hop, first on one foot, then on two.

Curious, Obama asked Mamoru Mohri, chief executive director of Miraikan, whether the robot was remote controlled. Yes, Mohri replied, but the robot can act autonomously, too.

Obama also witnessed demonstrations by other robots, including one designed by Japanese technicians and partially financed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that was developed to help with disaster response.

"I have to say the robots were a little scary," he said afterward. "They were too life-like."

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After holding a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama met with the three relatives of two Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea.

At the news conference, Obama said the United States stood with Japan in seeking to resolve such North Korean kidnappings and in a statement issued after the session with relatives, the White House said Obama was "moved by their tragic experiences."

Later, the relatives said Obama, as father of two daughters, showed empathy over the kidnapping of their loved ones. He said he would do his utmost to resolve the problem, possibly by adopting a U.N. Security Council resolution to pressure the North.

As father of two teenage daughters, Obama seemed particularly empathetic to Sakie Yokota, 78, whose daughter Megumi was kidnapped by North Korean agents 37 years ago when she was only 13. Yokota said Obama carefully looked at the pictures she brought and seemed to understand the pain of waiting such a long time.

"President Obama said it's not just another political or human rights issue. He said he cannot tolerate this problem as a human being and a father," Yokota told reporters after the meeting. "He reassured us that he would give us a firm support to resolve the problem."

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Of prayer cards and archers.

Obama visited the Meiji Shrine that commemorates Emperor Meiji, who died in 1912, and his wife Empress Shoken. The shrine has been something of a regular stop for visiting U.S. dignitaries.

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the shrine in 2009 and Vice President Joe Biden stopped there in 2011. President George W. Bush visited in 2002.

Like Bush, Obama was treated to a demonstration of yabusame, or horseback archery, where archers in traditional dress ride past a reviewing stand at a gallop while shooting arrows at a target. Obama watched

Moments earlier, Obama had toured the shrine with priests and then written on a prayer card. After hanging it with numerous other cards, a priest removed it, apparently out of fear that someone would take it.

"My only question is," Obama said to the priest, "will my wish still work if you take it?"

President Obama Plays Soccer With Robot

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