Futenma issue remains focus of Japan-US relations

16:17, June 07, 2010      

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Japan's new Prime Minister Naoto Kan and US President Barack Obama on Sunday held their first phone conversation, in which they discussed "the many issues facing both nations" and the Japan-U.S. alliance, the White House announced… They affirmed ties strained by a row over a U.S. base in Okinawa.

The major topics Prime Minister-elect Kan and President Obama in their phone conversation early Sunday morning include the Futenmar base relocation issue and challenges posed by the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, noted Japanese media reports. Meanwhile, the two leaders stressed the Japan-US alliance.

Naito Ken was elected as Japan's new prime minister in the two-chamber Diet two days after Yokio Hatoyama's sudden resignation. He is expected to formerly resume the premiership when his cabinet will also be launched on Tuesday.

Japanese Prime Minister-elect Naoto Kan affirmed U.S. ties in his phone call with President Obama… He also promised Obama to "make strenuous efforts" to tackle the relocation of Marine Air Station Futenma under the agreement signed last month between the two government. In the phone call President Obama welcomed Naoto Kan to be Japan's new prime minister.

Earlier, at a press conference held at the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) last Friday, June 4,Naoto Kan said he would honor the accord, but faces intense opposition from island residents who want Futenma moved out off Okinawa completely; if there is a need, he would visit Okinawa and consult with the relevant parties.

These remarks of his provoked resentment nevertheless. The Socialist Democratic Party (SDP) criticized Kan for pursuing the policies of his proceeding government. Deputy SDP chief Mataiti Tadashi from the Toyama prefectural chapter said at the Party convention held in Toyama city on Sunday that Naoto Kan "repeated the same thing again." They feel that since their votes cannot stop the majority from prevailing in the House, Tadashi said, and their time would be better spent out campaigning for the upcoming election.

Yuko Hatoyama resigned last Wednesday owing to the relocation issue of the Futenma Marine Base Station. So, Naoto Kan now has to accept a tough issue on the relocation of the U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma, or a "hot potato"as the Chinese saying goes.

With a strong opposition of Okinawans on the relocation of a contentious US marine base, according to U.S. media reports, it is not clear so far Naoto Kan will continue to implement the Japan-US pact on the issue. And the U.S. side is sure to exert pressure on Kan's government to comply with its interests to the maximum, while Kan will face up the issue to cope with the U.S. pressure.

Both Japan and the U.S. hope to take the opportunity of forming the new cabinet to mend the strained bilateral ties from the Futenma air base relocation issue. But it remains unknown whether Okinawans could reach a basic agreement to construct Futenma's replacement facilities, and so the new prime minister will face a difficult choice.

In the phone call on Sunday, Japan's new Prime Minister Naoto Kan promised the U.S. … "the partnership and close ties between the U.S. and Japan", a While House official said, and acknowledged that the talks were held "under cordial atmosphere". Kan and Obama also hit it off personally, having come from similar background, respectively, as a civic activist and a community organizer, according both to the Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers and a U.S. official in Washington.

In its June 3rd editorial, Washington Post however said "it's quite regrettable"in line with Japan's standards, … its DPJ-led coalition government ended less than nine months after its was formed last September, and Japan's new government should be expected to succeed.

The White House said in a statement that the two leaders had agreed to work closely on a number of issues. They agreed to work very closely together to address the many issues… "They emphasized the importance they each place on the U.S.-Japan alliance and held that good U.S.-Japan relations are beneficial to both countries and the whole world.

The White House statement, however, did not mention Futenma relocation issue, saying that "the two leaders agreed to work closely together"and consult on the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran. But the Japan's new prime minister's office said instead that Kan was quoted as telling Obama in the call that he would make "strenuous efforts on the relocation of the base."

By People's Daily Online and contributed by Yu Qing and Wen Xian, PD resident reporters respectively in Japan and the U.S.


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