Joint statement does not touch upon Futenma relocation issue

Joint statement does not touch upon Futenma relocation issue

On April 30 at the White House, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda shakes hands with President Barack Obama (photograph provided by Kyodo News).

May 1, 2012 Hideki Matsudo of Ryukyu Shimpo reports from Washington D.C.
At noon on April 30, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. The two leaders spoke of a dynamic defense force, in which the Japan Self-Defense Forces will gear up for surveillance activities in the Nansei Islands, the southwestern islands off Kyushu and the Okinawan archipelago, and released a joint statement entitled “A Shared Vision for the Future” as the new guideline of the Japan-U.S. alliance centered upon strengthened cooperation between Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military. Considering China’s military advancement and its rapid economic growth, they confirmed the reinforcement of the alliance to secure stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

But at the same time, the two leaders did not touch upon matters regarding the review of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, nor did they make specific reference to the issue of the return and relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which was the largest pending issue between the Japanese and the U.S. governments.

This is the first time that a bilateral summit has been held in Washington since the Japanese Democratic Party assumed power in 2009. The joint statement was the first to be issued by the Japanese prime minister and the American president since Junichiro Koizumi and George W. Bush did the same in 2006. The two leaders issued the statement to improve the relationship between the Japanese and the U.S. governments that has been strained since Yukio Hatoyama took power and pushed for the relocation of the Futenma Air Station out of Okinawa and Japan.

The two leaders did not specifically mention the issue of Japan’s participation in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement.

In terms of security, the joint statement referred to a dynamic defense force, in which the Self-Defense Forces will aim to strengthen their surveillance activities in the Nansei Islands by deploying troops to Yonaguni Island in response to China’s military advances to the region. The leaders confirmed the policy of reinforcing cooperation between the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military, implementing a strategy that underscores the security of the Asia-Pacific region. Essentially, they view the Futenma relocation issue as an internal matter for Japan, not specifically mentioning it as the two governments agreed to revise the realignment of U.S. forces, transferring the U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam separate to the current Futenma relocation plan.

With regard to the review of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, the joint statement did not mention individual matters, writing, “Our updated U.S. force realignment plan will further enhance the Alliance’s ability to respond to a variety of contingencies in the region.”

Although the two leaders did not mention it in the joint statement, they welcomed statements in the accompanying document released after their meeting to the effect that while the two governments intend to adhere to the planned relocation of Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district of Nago they will also consider relocating the base to areas other than Henoko within the review of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. The statements are seen as progress in relation to security between Japan and the United States.

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