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Obama, Abe to battle negative images at U.S.-Japan summit

By Linda Sieg and David Brunnstrom TOKYO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When U.S. President Barack Obama meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a summit next week, they will be battling negative undercurrents that could undermine their message that Asia's most important security alliance is firm. Obama, stopping in Tokyo at the beginning of a four-nation Asian trip, must counter worries in Japan that his commitment to its defense in the face of an increasingly assertive China is weak.

Abe aims to overcome gaps with U.S. to conclude TPP talks

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday Japan will address differences with the United States to successfully conclude multilateral talks for a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. "We intend to overcome our mutual differences and together forge a sturdy economic order for Asia and the Pacific in the 21st century," Abe said in a speech delivered at a forum in Tokyo. "We wish to create an unshakable foundation for growth."

Abe offers sympathies over S. Korean ferry sinking

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday expressed his sympathies to the South Korean people involved in a fatal ferry accident the previous day. The Japanese government has offered to provide aid to South Korea following the incident in waters off South Korea's southwest coast that has left at least nine people dead and over 280 missing. "I would like to express my sympathies to those affected and their families," Abe said while delivering a speech at a symposium in Tokyo.

Japan PM offers sympathy to S. Korea ferry victims

Japan's prime minister offered "heartfelt sympathy" on Thursday to those affected by the ferry disaster in South Korea, in a rare moment of detente between the feuding neighbours. Divers were searching for nearly 300 people still missing 24 hours after the huge vessel capsized off the southwestern coast of South Korea, with hopes of finding any survivors fading. Six people have been confirmed dead.

Japan, S. Korea remain apart over "comfort women" issue

Japan and South Korea failed to narrow differences during a meeting Wednesday on the issue of Korean women forced to serve at brothels for the wartime Japanese military. "It was a very meaningful consultation in that we were able to deepen understanding on each other's position and situation," Junichi Ihara, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, told reporters after meeting in Seoul with Lee Sang Deok, director general of the Northeast Asian Affairs Bureau of South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

Chinese leader accuses Abe of damaging bilateral ties

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang slammed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting with Japanese business leaders on Tuesday, putting the blame squarely on the Abe government for the severe strains in bilateral ties. "The Abe regime is causing a lot of visible and invisible damage (to Japan-China ties) with the way it is acting now," Wang said in a meeting with a Japanese business delegation led by former House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono.

Abe hoping to deepen ties with ASEAN through teaching program

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday he aims to deepen ties between Japan and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations through a new initiative to send about 3,000 assistant Japanese language teachers to the region by 2020. "I hope the younger generations in Japan and other Asian countries will be tied through sympathy and friendship, have the same dreams for the future and begin the next stage (in relations)," Abe told an event celebrating the launch of the program by the government-backed Japan Foundation in Tokyo.

Tokyo governor to visit Beijing on April 24-26

Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe announced Tuesday that he will visit Beijing for three days from April 24 at the invitation of Beijing's city government, saying he hopes the trip will mark the first step toward strengthening ties between the two capitals. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference he had urged Masuzoe to go to the Chinese capital when the governor brought up the subject with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Suga during a meal last Thursday.

Abe, Maldives president meet to discuss maritime security

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Maldives President Abdulla Yameen on Tuesday in a summit focused on enhancing bilateral cooperation on maritime security. Abe is expected to ask Yameen to help ensure the safety of sea lanes passing nearby the Indian Ocean island chain that are regularly used by vessels transporting crude oil to Japan from the Middle East. Meeting at the prime minister's office, the two leaders are also likely to agree on promoting bilateral economic and human exchanges.

Only 1 in 7 Japanese scientists are women

Just a seventh of scientists in Japan are female, government figures show -- a record high rate for the country, despite being the lowest rate of any developed nation. The figure comes amid a high-profile row in Japan that has pitted a young female researcher against the scientific establishment, and after repeated calls for Tokyo to boost female participation in the workforce to help plug a skills gap in the economy.
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