White House welcomes new Japanese prime minister amid tension with China, North Korea

WASHINGTON - Japan's new prime minister is visiting President Barack Obama amid tensions in Asia.

The two leaders meet Friday in the Oval Office to reinforce their longstanding alliance at a time of high tension stoked by a Japan-China territorial dispute and a North Korean nuclear test.

Shinzo Abe is a nationalist and a keen advocate of stronger relations with Washington that remain key to U.S. policy in Asia but haven't been helped by the rotating door of Japanese prime ministers.

Abe is the fifth prime minister of Japan since Obama took office.

The U.S. will be gauging Tokyo's intent to join a trans-Pacific trade pact and will be encouraging Japan to patch up differences with Beijing that threaten to spark a conflict in a region critical to the global economy.

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