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YOKOHAMA, Japan — President Barack Obama voiced support for Japan to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and reaffirmed the U.S.-Japan security alliance at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit Saturday.

Obama called Japan “a model of the kind of country” that belongs as a member of the Security Council, whose permanent members hold veto power over U.N. resolutions.

Obama added that “the commitment of the United States to the defense of Japan is unshakable,” in a brief statement to reporters following a private meeting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Obama also said that Kan had accepted his invitation to visit Washington next year.

Following the meeting, Obama met privately with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard before attending lunch with world leaders from the conference’s 21 participating nations.

Meanwhile, in a written response given to Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper prior to his meeting with Kan, Obama referred to the U.S.-Japan alliance as “the cornerstone of American strategic engagement in the Asia Pacific.”

“I work closely with Prime Minister [Naoto] Kan on the challenges of upgrading and modernizing the U.S.-Japan alliance,” Obama said, according to Yomiuri.

While Obama’s support for the continuing security alliance is no surprise, it comes amid tension in Japan over China’s increasingly assertive claims on territory in the East China and South China seas.

A rift over ownership of the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese, has ignited protests in both countries since a Chinese fishing boat collided with a Japanese Coast Guard vessel near the islands in September.

That rift, along with other long-standing disagreements, could mean an uphill battle for Japan’s Security Council ambitions. China currently holds one of five permanent seats on the council.

China also disputes territory with India, for which Obama also announced support for a permanent Security Council seat earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Obama took an indirect shot at China’s economic policies while addressing business leaders at a CEO summit earlier in the day.

“Going forward, no nation should assume that their path to prosperity is simply paved with exports to America,” Obama said.

At the same conference, Chinese President Hu Jintao avoided directly mentioning any points of disagreement with the U.S., but said Beijing would keep its currency stable and allow for gradual rises.

U.S. officials have criticized China in recent years for artificially undervaluing its currency, which they say cripples U.S. exports to China and exacerbates the trade deficit between the two countries. China’s weak currency also makes its goods cheaper, making it difficult for U.S. manufacturers to compete.

However, leaders at the G20 summit in Seoul a few days ago accused the United States of imitating China’s strategy; the Federal Reserve recently announced plans to pump $600 billion into the economy in a move that could weaken the U.S. dollar.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

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