Japan prime minister touts trans-Pacific 'synergy' with US in visit to Los Angeles



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LOS ANGELES — The United States and Japan will work toward strengthened economic ties, including promoting more direct investment in each other's markets and approval of a Pacific trade agreement, officials said Friday.

"We must reinforce an economic architecture that will shape and secure our future," U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said at a Japan-U.S. economic forum in downtown Los Angeles attended by visiting Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"There are two essential cornerstones of that architecture: increasing two-way investment and deepening trade" through a trans-Pacific agreement, Pritzker said.

Speaking through an interpreter, Abe said during the Los Angeles stop in his U.S. visit that he envisioned a new era of cooperation between the two allies — an "alliance of hope" that included growing investments and closer business and political ties.

At an earlier luncheon, Abe said there is a "synergy across the Pacific Ocean" between the nations, and he alluded to strengthened defense ties with the U.S. amid Japan's perpetual feud with archrival China.

Since winning election in December 2012, Abe has been a strong advocate of closer ties with the U.S. His remarks came near the close of a three-day swing through California after meeting earlier in the week with President Barack Obama in Washington, where Abe said the U.S. and Japan must take the lead in completing a 12-nation trans-Pacific trade pact.

He arrived in the U.S. during a Washington battle over legislation that would give Obama the authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a cornerstone of his second-term agenda. In a reversal of politics-as-usual, it's Obama's own Democratic base that opposes him, and Republicans who support the deal.

Pritzker told the forum, which included leaders of U.S. and Japanese businesses, that the Obama administration is "all-in on TPP." She said the pact would be the most effective mechanism for paving the way to even stronger economic ties.

Outside the event, about 100 people chanted and held signs demanding an apology for the sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of Asian women by Japan's imperial army during World War II. The protesters, many of Korean or Chinese descent, shouted "Abe, liar!" and held signs reading "Mr. Abe, official apology."

The prime minister expressed "feelings of deep remorse over the war" during an address to Congress but that didn't satisfy critics, who say Japan hasn't done enough to account for wartime abuses. Japan maintains that it already has apologized for the "comfort women."

Abe also was scheduled to appear at a wreath-laying at the Go For Broke Monument, which honors Japanese-Americans who served in the U.S. Army during the war.

The prime minister, who studied at the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning, and Development, also intended to meet and show support to Japanese students attending U.S. universities, said Takako Ito, a foreign ministry spokeswoman.

Also on the schedule was a reception with former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, with actor George Takei among the guests.

On Thursday, Abe gave Gov. Jerry Brown a hint of what it would be like inside a Japanese-made bullet train, displaying a train simulator for the California leader.

"There are some people in California who think of high-speed rail as a mysterious, very expensive, exotic technology," Brown told Abe during their meeting at a San Francisco hotel. "If you were able to get a train in a hotel, I think I can get a train built from San Francisco to Los Angeles."

Brown has faced opposition in his efforts to build the $68-billion high-speed rail line in California.

Earlier Thursday, Abe said during a speech at Stanford University that his country needs to emulate Silicon Valley style, risk and innovation.

Abe met with Google and Facebook executives and visited electric carmaker Tesla Motors.

Abe's itinerary also included a discussion with business leaders at a resort on Sand Hill Road, the epicenter of tech venture-capital companies that have launched Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and other tech giants.

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