Obama heading back to Asia-Pacific for four-country tour in April

President Obama is heading back to the Pacific Rim in April to visit several countries vital to moving his massive trade agenda and important to global security. 

Obama will travel to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines to discuss a broad array of issues from trade and economics to security. 

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Although no deadline has been set, there has been some talk that negotiators on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) want to have an agreement near completion for Obama's visit. 

Even though talks will continue in Singapore later this month, gaping differences remain and there are still many complex issues, such as intellectual property rules, that need to be sorted out. 

After canceling a similar trip during the government shutdown in October, Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, announced back in November that the president would embark on the four-country tour this spring.

At the time she said, "rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific remains a cornerstone of the Obama administration's foreign policy."

"No matter how many hot spots emerge elsewhere, we will continue to deepen our enduring commitment to this critical region.

Obama had been scheduled last fall to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during a couple of global economic summits.

In the meantime, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Vice President Joe Biden have traveled to the region, which included a stop in China to meet with top government officials.

This time around, Obama will meet with Abe to discuss their nations' longstanding relationship and the need to further strengthen their economic ties through the TPP. Japan and the United States are holding parallel talks on a variety of trade issues, including improved market access for U.S. exports. 

The leaders also are expected to discuss a range of diplomatic challenges in Asia, especially tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea. 

Obama will then head to Korea to meet with President Park Geun-Hye to review recent developments in North Korea and their alignment on a no-nukes policy.

On Wednesday, North and South Korea held their first high-level government talks in seven years.

The leaders also are expected to to discuss the free trade agreement between the two countries.

Recently, some congressional Democrats have expressed concern about a widening trade deficit with Korea.

In Malaysia, the president is set to sit down with Prime Minister Najib Razak to discuss deepening their relationship in the region, including through the TPP trade agreement.

The president will then travel to the Philippines to meet with President Benigno Aquino to highlight economic and security cooperation, including modernizing the defense alliance.