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US First Lady Michelle Obama Visits Japan, Cambodia

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, right, is greeted by an unidentified Japanese official upon her arrival at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, March 18, 2015.

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama has arrived in Japan for a three-day visit meant to highlight her global women's education initiative.

Obama landed late Wednesday in the capital, Tokyo. On Thursday, she will hold separate meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie. She also plans to meet with the emperor and empress of Japan before heading to the tourist hotspot, Kyoto, on Friday.

The first lady was unable to accompany President Barack Obama on his trip to Japan last year. This trip is widely seen as making up for that absence.

A White House statement said Michelle Obama will announce a partnership between the U.S. and Japan on the Let Girls Learn initiative, which aims to help educate the 62 million girls globally who do not attend school.

On Friday, she will head to Cambodia, which is one of 11 countries initially included in the initiative. It is the first time that a sitting U.S. first lady has visited the Southeast Asian country.

Peace Corps volunteers

Map showing destinations of Michelle Obama's trip to Asia
Map showing destinations of Michelle Obama's trip to Asia

In Cambodia, Michelle Obama will meet Bun Rany, the Cambodian first lady. She will also meet meet volunteers with the U.S. Peace Corps program, which will play a key role in helping expand access for schooling for girls.

Cambodia's government is led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has a reputation for ruthlessness and little tolerance for dissent. The country also has child prostitution and human trafficking problems.

Evan Medeiros, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, told reporters that while in Cambodia, Michelle Obama plans to discuss the need for open and inclusive politics and highlight basic values and principles that are important to the U.S.

In an opinion piece this week in The Wall Street Journal, Michelle Obama said 62 million girls not in school represents a "tragic waste of human potential."

"It is also a serious public-health challenge, a drag on national economies and global prosperity, and a threat to the security of countries around the world, including our own," she said.

Her arrival coincides with a speech made by former U.S. President Bill Clinton at a Tokyo university Wednesday afternoon alongside U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Abe as they attended a symposium on the legacy of assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

Some information for this report came from AP and AFP.