TOKYO – The makeup of the new Japanese government was announced on Sept. 2 with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his incoming administration optimistic about the future of the relationship between Tokyo and Washington.
Noda said the new administration would adhere to the bilateral accord on the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps from Air Station Futenma in Okinawa.
President Barack Obama congratulated Noda on his appointment saying he looked forward to working with Japan’s new leader on a broad range of economic and security issues.
Washington is now dealing with Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years with little sign of meaningful progress in the plan to shift the functions of the Futenma base to another facility within Okinawa and then transfer 8 000 Marines to Guam.
On Aug. 31 Noda talked by phone with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner focusing on what the prime minister called “practical issues “” such as the strength of the yen.
The following day Noda said he had “”good talks”” with Obama reiterating that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Tokyo’s foreign policy and underscoring his belief that the security relationship is essential for ensuring peace and security throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
”For the last half-century the U.S.-Japan Alliance has served as the linchpin of peace and security in the Asia Pacific region and together we can ensure that the next half-century enjoys the same stability and prosperity ” Obama said in a statement from the White House. ”The relationship between the United States and Japan is based on common interests and common values.””
That relationship had been under considerable strain in the months after the Democratic Party of Japan was first elected in 2009 with then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s failed attempt to keep a pre-election promise to dramatically reduce the U.S. military presence in Okinawa and to find an alternative site for the previously agreed site for the transfer of Futenma’s air units.
Hatoyama’s successor Prime Minister Naoto Kan set about mending the fences that his predecessor had damaged but found himself overwhelmed by the disasters of March 11. MBJ