During Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and President Obama’s first meeting together, they agreed to maintain and strengthen their alliance. Avoiding a discussion of their respective pending issues, the two leaders created a mood amenable to cooperation. However, one has to wonder whether this is really a good start for the prime minister’s dealings with America.
Before the meeting, Secretary of State Clinton mentioned to the press corps that every administration has the right to change the government’s policies.
But even so, the U.S. government expressed confusion at Hatoyama’s Democratic party for raising the issue to review the Japan-America pact and the presence of U.S. forces in Japan. And with the prime minister seeking to create a framework of economic security in Asia with his proposal of an East Asian cooperative body, there are some who wonder if the prime minister is anti-American.
Perhaps American concerns were alleviated somewhat at the meeting. President Obama said that this is a chance to renew and further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance; returning it to the way it was in the latter half of the 20th century. Meanwhile, the prime minister said that the Japan-U.S. alliance continues to be the key to Japan’s security and that it is important to strengthen it. With the new leaders of Japan and the U.S. directly stating their opinions in this way, their meeting can be judged to be meaningful and significant.
Of course, there are differences between the two countries that need to be straightened out. In January of next year, for example, what should be done if the Maritime Self Defense Force, with its term finishing in January of next year, terminates its oil-related activities in the Indian Ocean? What would the plan for substitution be? It is necessary to hurry up and craft a concrete assistance plan that Japan would be capable of performing.
In Okinawa, both governments agreed to relocate Futenma air base to Camp Schwab in Nago City on the coast, raising a difficult problem. To Japan’s coalition government, the consent is “facing review,” but to Secretary Clinton and the U.S. side, the implementation of current plan is essential, and set in stone.
Whatever the issue is, the course of action must be settled by the time President Obama visits in November.
Not everything is about disagreement between the U.S. and Japan. The prime minister expressed his ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gases to cope with the problem of climate change. Meanwhile, the president stated in his U.N. address that America alone cannot create a world without nuclear weapons. Truly, Japan and the U.S. should strengthen their cooperation on global issues and take the lead.
To the U.S., the new Hatoyama administration may cause more uneasiness than the previous Liberal Democratic administration, which had basically been in power since post-war Japan returned to international society. However, its new administration has something in common with Japan’s new government: Hatoyama, like America’s new president, campaigned with the banner of “change” and overturned the previous administration.
The president stated during their meeting that they would have a long relationship from that day on and solve their problems, one by one. If the two heads can look towards reconstructing the Japan-U.S. relationship with that spirit, it would be wonderful.