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Japan's New Foreign Minister Considers Wider Alliances in Asia, US Ties


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Japan's new foreign minister has laid out his plan for his first 100 days in office, elaborating on discussions to build an East Asian Community and to alter the status of the U.S. military bases in the country.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada has only been on the job for three weeks. But he wants to signal a break from the past at every opportunity he gets. On his first day in office, he ordered his agency to investigate a decades-old pact that allowed U.S. ships to enter Japanese ports while armed with nuclear weapons.

Okada says Japan denied the pact existed for decades, in part because the same party ruled for half a century. He says acknowledging the pact would have meant calling somebody in your own political party a liar. And he goes to say he believes the denial hurt Japan's credibility - and he has always wanted to change that.

Reports on that investigation will not be completed until November, but Okada has plenty on his plate in the meantime.

Speaking to foreign journalists Wednesday, he laid out an ambitious 100-day plan to address the issue of the U.S. military bases in Okinawa and to review aid to Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also plans to address climate change.

On the issue of Okinawa's Futenma base, Okada disagrees with those who say the current U.S. and Japanese agreement should hold.

Under that plan 8,000 U.S. Marines will move from Okinawa to Guam while the U.S. builds a new facility to replace the Futenma air station. Futenma is in the crowded center of the island and is to be closed to reduce noise and congestion in the area.

Okada wants to review that plan before proceeding any further and say that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton understands that desire.

On the issue of Afghanistan, Okada indicated new plans to help stabilize the country could offer income guarantees and job training to lure people away from the Taliban.

As for climate change, Mr. Okada said Japan would work closely with the U.S. to help developing countries such as China reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The foreign minister's ambitious plans also include talks with China to build an East Asian Community alliance, similar to the European Union.

Okada says he envisions an alliance that includes South Korea, Australia, Southeast Asia and India. He says the community would deepen economic ties among the countries and encourage cooperation in other areas such as energy, the environment, and public health.

But Mr. Okada stresses that such an alliance would not come at the expense of the U.S.-Japan alliance.

He says the two countries needed to remain strong partners. And that Japan should not have to pick between having good relations the U.S. and China.