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Obama, Hatoyama Emphasize Cooperation During Tokyo Visit


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U.S. President Barack Obama wrapped up his short visit to Japan Saturday by renewing U.S. commitment to Asia. The president's visit began with sharp criticism over a U.S. plan to move its Marine base in the southern island of Okinawa. But Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama set aside their differences to emphasize cooperation on everything from the war in Afghanistan to climate change.

President Obama's first visit to Japan lasted just 24 hours. But he used the short time to address concerns about strained ties between the two countries. The president renewed his commitment to building a strong alliance between the two countries in a speech in Tokyo. In a joint news conference, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama vowed to use the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan alliance to reshape and strengthen the countries' relationship.

Mr. Hatoyama said it is especially important to strengthen ties to tackle issues around the globe. He said he wants to build a new, forward thinking U.S.-Japan alliance.

That alliance has been tested recently, because of differences over a 2006 agreement to realign U.S. troops in the southern island of Okinawa. The agreement calls for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to be moved from a densely populated area to a remote region of the prefecture.

But Mr. Hatoyama wants to review the plan because it was signed under a previous administration. He campaigned and won on a promise to develop a "more equal" relationship with the United States.

That has put him at odds with Washington. Mr. Obama and Mr. Hatoyama tried to quiet concerns about growing animosity between the two nations. Instead, they vowed to reach a quick resolution through a bilateral working group.

In Okinawa, some remained skeptical.

This man told a Japanese television station that he wants Mr. Obama to come visit Okinawa himself. He said if the president sees first hand the burden U.S. military bases have placed on our community he will understand our frustration.

Outrage over the Futenma issue sparked large protests throughout the country ahead of Mr. Obama's visit. But the president has largely remained popular in Japan, in part because of his personal ties to Asia. He tried to connect with the public here by talking about his childhood in Indonesia and his visit to Japan as a young boy. Mr. Obama described himself as America's "first Pacific president."

And that seemed to resonate with many people who waited in the rain to catch a glimpse of Mr. Obama's motorcade.

This man flew in from Obama City Japan with a handful of other supporters. He handed out stickers and T-shirts that read "I love Obama." He said he knows it is not likely - but that he came on the slight chance that he might be able to see him.


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