Accessibility links

US, Japan Seek to Strengthen Alliance

  • Dave DeForest

Base Removal Still a Sticking Point

Japanese media say the United States and Japan plan to issue a joint statement affirming the alliance between the two countries, despite differences over the basing of U.S. troops.

They say the statement will coincide with the 50th anniversary (19 January) of the signing of a 1960 alliance treaty that obligates the United States to the military defense of Japan.

The statement would come as both countries seek to broaden the alliance.

It also follows talks 12 January in Hawaii between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada regarding bilateral relations.

"The alliance between the United States and Japan is a cornerstone of America's engagement in the region," said Secretary Clinton after the meeting.

“We are beginning to see the two governments come together to…try to frame an alliance statement that will look forward, and will give some texture to idea that the U.S. and Japan have reinvigorated their partnership,” says Sheila Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A recent area of tension between the two nations involves the presence of U.S. military bases in Japan. "This has been a very fundamental issue for the new Japanese government and the Obama administration,” Smith said.

Mr. Hatoyama has called for the removal of the U.S. Futenma Airbase from Okinawa. But the United States insists on maintaining a 2006 agreement that moves the base to a coastal plain on the island.

Smith pointed out that although the base issue is important, it is not the only area of interest between the two countries. “We work with Japan in a range of issues including North Korea and other issues in the region,” she said.

Relations between the United States and Japan soured when Mr. Hatoyama and his Democratic Party came to power in September of 2009, calling for greater independence from the United States.

Smith said Mr. Hatoyama initially sought to reduce U.S military presence in Japan, but has since backed away from that position. He has yet to present a proposal on the matter. “I think he is testing his own…personal convictions against the realities of governance,” Smith said.

Smith said she thinks the new Japanese leadership is learning quickly how to deal with disagreements with the United States, such as the one over Futema.

Despite recent tensions, both sides appear determined to strengthen their alliance.

XS
SM
MD
LG