Last update 6/23/2011 4:08:00 PM (GMT+7)

Japan, U.S. focus on China

VietNamNet Bridge - After failing to agree on a timetable for relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan and the United States focused on common strategic objectives mainly to deal with China's emergence.

American and Japanese ministers
The bilateral Security Consultative Committee meeting June 21 was attended by Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The ministers agreed that Futenma should be relocated off the coast of Henoko in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture. But they also admitted the two nations would not be able to meet a 2014 deadline to complete the relocation.

A joint statement issued after the meeting only said the ministers "confirmed their commitment to complete (the Futenma relocation and transfer of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam) at the earliest possible date after 2014 in order to avoid the indefinite use" of Futenma.

The two sides agreed to the relocation proposal--even though there are no assurances it will actually be implemented--because they did not want to give the impression of a deep division that China could exploit.

To demonstrate that the bilateral alliance was actually deepening, the two nations agreed to comprehensively revise the common strategic objectives that had been agreed to during meetings in 2005 and 2007.

Although the revised common strategic objectives do not actually name China, a Japanese government source said "the document was made about 20 to 30 percent more severe" toward China.

During the discussions, the ministers pointed to various issues that have arisen in recent months due to the rapid emergence of China.

"It has led to frictions in relation to freedom of navigation in the East China Sea and South China Sea," Matsumoto said, referring to China's aggressive maritime moves. "While Japan and the United States should cooperate with nations in the region, there is also a need to ask China to deal with the issue in a responsible and constructive manner."

Clinton went further, saying that Beijing's advances into the South China Sea had increased tensions within the region. She said the United States is seeking to secure maritime national security by abiding with international law in order to guarantee freedom of navigation.

A new item included in the common strategic objectives list was to "maintain safety and security of the maritime domain by defending the principle of freedom of navigation."

In the summer of 2010, Clinton said in a speech regarding Chinese advances into the South China Sea that freedom of navigation was in the national interests of the United States. Since then, the issue of freedom of navigation has become a major theme of discussions between Japan and the United States.

Another common strategic objective called on China to adhere to "international norms of behavior."

Regarding North Korea, the document said a common strategic objective was to "deter provocations by North Korea" and to "achieve the complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea, including its uranium enrichment program."

This was the first time direct reference was made to Pyongyang's uranium enrichment plan.

In addition to the relationship between Japan, the United States and Australia that was included in past common strategic objectives, the strengthening of national security and defense cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea was included in the latest list.

The list also confirmed the need to promote dialogue between Japan, the United States and India.

Source: Asahi Shimbun