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About 70 lawmakers, intellectuals and business leaders from Japan and the United States gathered Tuesday in Tokyo to discuss how to revitalize the bilateral relationship, which has been strained over the relocation of the Futenma military base in Okinawa since the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009.

The one-day New Shimoda Conference was aimed at reinvigorating bilateral exchanges that were activated by a series of high-level meetings between 1967 and 1994 as the Shimoda Conference. Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture, is where the two countries signed the treaty of amity and commerce in 1858.

Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, said in her opening remarks that U.S. participants arrived “with a shared commitment to this nation and to revitalizing our long and successful alliance with each other.”

“We come here today with a fresh objective: revitalizing the U.S.-Japan relationship to build on the experiences of the past and secure a stronger future for both of our nations,” she said.

DeGette said the bilateral relationship has focused primarily on the security realm, but it needs to evolve to cover wider areas to help the two countries jointly tackle such challenges as global financial crises, pandemics and climate change.

Former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Motohisa Furukawa, a Lower House member of the DPJ, underlined the need for the two countries “to have more intense and more candid dialogue about what we should be doing together and what we need to prioritize.”

“There has been a general sense that policy dialogue between our two countries has declined in recent years, so I’m especially pleased to see the revival of the Shimoda Conference and I hope we will see more initiatives like this,” he said.

“Having a sustained dialogue among parliamentarians from our two countries is one particularly important way to help build a sense of team spirit between our two countries,” Furukawa said.

Other people at the mostly closed-door event included Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat from Virginia, and Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki.

The inaugural Shimoda Conference was held in 1967, during which participants discussed Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty from U.S. occupation. Okinawa was returned in 1972.

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