Japan, U.S. foreign ministers to discuss Obama's Japan trip

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida plans to hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington next week to pave the way for a planned visit to Japan in April by President Barack Obama, a government source said Tuesday.

Kishida is expected to reaffirm the Japanese government's position in the Feb. 7 talks that it will steadily implement an accord with the United States to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station within Okinawa Prefecture.

The government's plan to relocate the base from the densely populated area of Ginowan to the city of Nago was dealt a blow on Jan. 19 when Susumu Inamine, an opponent of the planned relocation, was re-elected as Nago mayor.

To combat such local opposition, Kishida and Kerry are likely to agree to speed up working-level consultations on concluding a new accord concerning environmental conservation and research at U.S. bases in Japan.

The two are also likely to confirm cooperation in concluding Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations at an early date.

Kishida is also expected to tell the U.S. that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's contentious visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in December, which Washington said was disappointing, was meant to be a way of reiterating that Japan should never again wage war.

Abe's visit to the Tokyo shrine especially angered China and South Korea, which regard the shrine as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

Kishida plans to travel to the United States on Feb. 7 and return home on Feb. 9, according to the source.