NEW YORK – Prime Minister Naoto Kan and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed Thursday their countries will consult closely on the heightened tensions between Japan and China, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said.
Kan and Obama, meeting in New York on the sidelines of U.N. meetings, also confirmed the importance of the Japan-U.S. security alliance, saying it not only stabilizes the Asia-Pacific region but also serves as a cornerstone for global peace and prosperity.
With Kan describing the bilateral alliance as “infrastructure” for peace in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the world, the two leaders recognized the need to closely monitor developments in their relations with China, according to Fukuyama, who attended the hourlong summit.
Fukuyama said the two leaders didn’t have enough time to sufficiently address economic issues, so they didn’t touch on the foreign exchange issue despite Japan last week making its first yen-selling intervention in the currency markets in more than six years.
It was their second meeting. Kan and Obama first met in June in Toronto.
Tensions have been mounting between Japan and China following the Sept. 7 collisions between a Chinese trawler and two Japan Coast Guard patrol boats near the disputed Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan but claimed by both China and Taiwan.
Prosecutors announced Friday they would free the Chinese skipper. He was arrested Sept. 8 on suspicion of deliberately ramming one of the boats. The arrest sparked protests from China, leading to cancellation of travel, concerts and other cultural and governmental exchanges between the two countries.
On the relocation of the Futenma military base in Okinawa, Kan told Obama that his government will implement the bilateral accord reached in May to transfer the facility within the prefecture.
Kan said Tokyo will try to gain the understanding of Okinawa residents by carrying out measures to ease the local burden of hosting military bases. Obama said he recognizes difficulties involved in the base issue, Fukuyama said.
They also agreed to deepen the bilateral alliance not only in the area of security but also in economic and cultural fields.
The two leaders reaffirmed their unity in dealing with North Korea, saying they need to see sincere and positive responses from Pyongyang before agreeing to resume the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, he said.
Kan said North Korea must show a “new stance” on four issues — the deadly sinking of a South Korean ship in March, its nuclear ambitions, its missile program and the past abductions of Japanese nationals.
The six-party dialogue involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. have been stalled since December 2008. The North has called for reopening the dialogue, a move supported by China.
But Japan, South Korea and the United States are wary in the wake of the ship sinking incident, for which the North has been blamed. Pyongyang categorically denies it had anything to do with the sinking.
Obama said he is looking forward to visiting Yokohama in November to attend a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
The president also said he expects to find “ways that we can work together so we can shape an architecture for economic development in the Pacific region.”
Kan welcomed the planned U.S. participation in the East Asia Summit and said he would like to lead an initiative to build an East Asian community involving the U.S., Fukuyama said.
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