Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Tokyo Monday, the first stop on a weeklong trip to Asia aimed at bolstering relations and pressing for support of a multinational trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
But his trip to Japan, China and South Korea comes at a tense time, as China recently declared an "air defense identification zone" that requires planes to share their flight plans before flying through. Though other countries have similar policies, China's unilateral decision to create one has ruffled feathers with countries like Japan.
According to the White House, Biden – a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other top officials during his three-day visit. He will also meet with women workers at a local technology company alongside Cathy Russell, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues.
On Wednesday, Biden travels to Beijing, where he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two will "engage in a wide-ranging dialogue on bilateral, regional and global issues," including energy and climate discussions and "areas of concern, including regional tensions."
Biden is scheduled to travel to Seoul, South Korea, Thursday afternoon, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korea alliance. The vice president will also discuss North Korean security threats and meet with U.S. military and civilians in the demilitarized zone. Also in Seoul, Biden will meet with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and give a speech on U.S. policy in the region at Yonsei University.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement remains a major focus for the Obama administration in the Asian region, having negotiated on the pact for nearly four years in conjunction with more than 10 different countries. Critics have charged the negotiations have been too shrouded from the public eye for proper scrutiny. Though the White House has pressed for the proposal to be "fast-tracked" for passage by Congress, lawmakers have not moved forward on the issue.