Obama, Hatoyama prioritize alliance

Cooperation on nuke arms, emissions; no Futenma deal

by Masami Ito

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and U.S. President Barack Obama vowed Friday to bolster the bilateral alliance and cooperate on pressing global issues, including climate change and nuclear disarmament.

The two also touched on the sensitive relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa. The issue has cast a shadow on bilateral relations. They said it was their common goal to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Earlier this week, the two governments decided to form a ministerial-level working group to find a way to resolve the issue, just in time to avoid direct conflict at the summit.

The working group “will focus on the implementation of the agreement that our two governments reached with respect to the restructuring of the U.S. forces in Okinawa, and we hope to complete this work expeditiously,” Obama said during a joint news conference. “Our goal remains the same — and that is to provide for the defense of Japan with minimal intrusion on the lives of the people who share the space.”

But the contentious relocation of the Futenma base continues to loom over the Hatoyama administration.

In 2006, the then Liberal Democratic Party-led government signed a bilateral agreement with the U.S. to move the Futenma base’s flight operations in Ginowan to U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago on the northern part of Okinawa Island by 2014.

But Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan, which came to power in August amid a strong wave of anti-LDP sentiment, has promised to consider moving the base outside the prefecture or even outside Japan.

Obama arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport aboard Air Force One earlier in the day on his first official trip to Japan. He will depart Saturday for Singapore to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit.

“I began my trip here in Tokyo because the alliance between the United States and Japan is a foundation for security and prosperity not just for our two countries but for the Asia-Pacific region,” Obama said.

With the 50th anniversary of the revision of the Japan-U.S. security treaty coming up next year, the two leaders promised to strengthen the bilateral ties to aim for a “world without nuclear weapons.”

“I told Obama that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the foundation of everything in regards to Japan’s diplomacy,” Hatoyama said. “But the times and the situation of the world have changed and I suggested to further advance and develop the alliance, to create a constructive and future-oriented new Japan-U.S. alliance.”

During the evening talks at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence, Hatoyama and Obama issued a joint statement, pledging the two governments to work closely toward nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize last month for his vision of a nuclear-free world.

The statement declared that North Korea and Iran should “uphold and adhere to their respective international obligations.” Pointing out Pyongyang’s recent missile launches and nuclear test, the joint statement stressed, “North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons remains a major threat to peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the entire international community.”

Japan and the U.S. also urged North Korea “to return immediately to the six-party (Pyongyang denuclearization) talks without precondition.”