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Obama meets with Japanese, Australian prime ministers during Asia tour

By the CNN Wire Staff
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APEC summit begins
  • Obama: "The United States does not have a closer or better ally than Australia"
  • Gillard expresses condolences for the United States' losses in Afghanistan
  • Kan thanks Obama for support during tensions with China and Russia

Yokohama, Japan (CNN) -- Nearing the end of his 10-day trip to Asia, President Obama met Saturday with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard during a bilateral event in Yokohama, Japan.

"The United States does not have a closer or better ally than Australia," Obama told reporters.

He added that the countries will "work for ways that we can expand trade."

Obama is in Japan for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. His 10-day Asia tour is aimed at strengthening the United States' trade and military ties with a region that has thrived economically.

Obama said he has extended an invitation to Gillard to visit.

"I look forward to seeing you in Washington," Gillard said.

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"Our two countries are great mates, to use Australian terminology," she said.

Gillard said she expressed her nation's condolences to the United States for its losses in Afghanistan, and said she agreed that the two countries were on the same page on trade.

Also on Saturday, Japan's prime minister briefed reporters about his bilateral meeting with Obama. Prime Minister Naoto Kan thanked Obama for his support throughout territorial disputes with both Russia and China. The disputes with both countries surround islands that Japan claims as sovereign territory and began with a September skirmish at sea with China.

Obama said he was delighted that Kan accepted an invitation to visit the United States next year.

The president is scheduled to head back to the United States on Sunday.

CNN's Kyung Lah contributed to this report.