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Japan-U.S. foreign ministerial meeting a chance to rebuild bilateral alliance
 
Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed in their recent talks in Washington to set new common strategic goals, which will serve as guidelines for bilateral security cooperation. They also agreed on the need to step up bilateral consultations aimed at strengthening ties in case of any emergency situation such as an armed conflict in and around Japan.
 
Their agreement is appropriate in that it is based on recent changes in the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region, such as rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula and China's increased activities at sea.
Setting new common goals on Japan-U.S. security cooperation, which the two countries have not sufficiently discussed so far, is of great significance as it will help improve bilateral relations which were strained under the administration of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
 
The current common strategic goals were worked out in the so-called two-plus-two talks by foreign and defense ministers of the two countries in February 2005 when the Liberal Democratic Party was in power. The goals declare that the Japan-U.S. alliance will continue to play an essentially vital role in ensuring peace and stability in the region and the entire world, and call on both countries to continue to consider the roles, missions and capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and U.S. forces.
 
However, Japan was unable to hold in-depth discussions on the roles of U.S. forces and the SDF under the Hatoyama administration because bilateral ties were strained over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.
A joint declaration on the deepening of the bilateral alliance, which Maehara and Clinton confirmed that the two countries will announce when Prime Minister Naoto Kan visits the United States this coming spring, will likely be based on the new common strategic goals.
 
The new National Defense Program Outline, which Japan adopted in December last year, describes China as a concern for the region and the whole world, and declares that Japan will strengthen its defense capabilities on the Nansei Islands in southwestern Japan that include Okinawa. China, which has been continuing its military buildup without ensuring transparency and increasing its activities aimed at expanding its interests in surrounding seas, is undoubtedly a major destabilizing factor for Japan and other neighboring countries.
However, Japan needs to work out a comprehensive strategy in not only the field of politics but also other fields including economy and culture in order to ensure that China will be a responsible member of the international community. Foreign Minister Maehara told Clinton that Japan-China relations are getting on track to improvement. Japan should step up its efforts to ensure that move.
 
In their discussions, Maehara and Clinton shared the view that the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program should be resumed if North Korea takes concrete action to abandon the agenda. The two countries should exercise prudence in deciding whether to resume such talks in order not to repeat past mistakes.
Regarding the Futenma relocation, Maehara and Clinton also agreed to discuss specific measures to lessen Okinawa's burden of hosting U.S. bases in Japan. There is no prospect for a breakthrough in the deadlocked relocation. However, Tokyo and Washington should exercise prudence in responding to the issue to prevent the matter from hampering consultations on the strengthening of the bilateral alliance. (Mainichi Japan)
January 8, 2011
 
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