The United States on Monday said it would not renegotiate a deal on U.S. military bases in Japan with that country's incoming government, which campaigned for a review of the U.S. troop presence in Japan. U.S. officials add that the incoming Japanese officials might moderate their views when they take office.
The Obama administration says it looks forward to working closely and maintaining a strong alliance with the next Japanese government, but that it is ruling out any renegotiation of the bases agreement that was finalized earlier this year.
Under the agreement, painstakingly negotiated with the outgoing Japanese government over several years, the United States will move 8,000 U.S. Marines from the Futenma base on Japan's southern island of Okinawa to the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam.
The move, aimed at reducing noise and other complaints of the so-called U.S. "footprint" on Okinawa will be underwritten with nearly $3 billion provided from Japan.
The country's presumptive new Prime Minister - Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatoyama - has called for a review of the bases agreement and the closure of the Futenma facility altogether.
But in a statement to reporters, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said the United States has no intention of renegotiating the Futenma plan or Guam relocation.
At an earlier news briefing, Kelly reiterated U.S. congratulations to Japan over the elections and said Washington's partnership with Tokyo will continue over a broad range of issues.
"Our alliance with Japan is key to a number of important regional and even global issues," said Ian Kelly. "They play a key role in helping stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan. They're not NATO members, of course, but they still contribute to ISAF [the International Security Assistance Force]. They play a critical role on some of our refueling efforts. As we go forward, as Japan goes forward with forming a new government, one of the key issues that we look forward to working with them on is the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."
While in opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan tried to block the country's Indian Ocean refueling mission for U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, but agreed not to disrupt the mission before it expires in January.
State Department Spokesman Kelly said a stable and prosperous Afghanistan is in the interests of the international community, including Japan.
A Pentagon spokesman said he expects the U.S.-Japanese military relationship to remain the same, despite the pending change of leadership in Tokyo.
A senior official who spoke to reporters here said the new government's policy positions might, in practice, be more moderate than themes the Democratic Party sounded during the campaign.