VP Biden in Tokyo on first leg of 3-nation tour aimed at showing US still focused on Asia

TOKYO – U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden has opened a weeklong trip to Asia aimed at showing the U.S. is still committed to increasing its engagement and influence in the region.

Arriving in Tokyo late Monday evening, Biden was met on the tarmac by Caroline Kennedy, the new U.S. ambassador to Japan. He started his morning Tuesday by having coffee with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who is staying in the same hotel as the vice-president.

Later Tuesday, Biden will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He’ll also tour a technology company and highlight the role of women in Japan’s economy.

The trip comes as many in Asia are questioning whether the U.S. will follow through with President Barack Obama’s pledge to rebalance the U.S. foreign policy focus toward Asia.

“Yes, some question our staying power,” Biden said in an interview with Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper. “But Japan knows that we have stayed for more than 60 years, providing the security that made possible the region’s economic miracle. Economically, diplomatically, militarily, we have been, we are, and we will remain a resident Pacific power.”

Later in the week, Biden will meet in China with President Xi Jinping amid an international spat over China’s new air defence zone.

Biden will wrap up the trip in Seoul, where he will meet with South Korea’s president and prime minister. He’ll deliver a speech about U.S.-Korean relations and be briefed on the North Korean nuclear situation.