PM says ‘Japan’s back,’ vows stronger ties with US

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President Barack Obama shakes hands with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. AP

WASHINGTON— Japan’s new prime minister declared Friday he would make his country a stronger U.S. ally and joined President Barack Obama in warning North Korea that its recent nuclear provocations would not be tolerated.

After meeting Obama in the Oval Office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also sent a clear message to China: that while Japan does not want confrontation with Beijing, it won’t tolerate challenges to its sovereignty over islands disputed by the two Asian powers.

Those regional tensions served as the backdrop for Friday’s meetings, which came just two months after Abe began his second stint as Japan’s prime minister following a convincing election victory.

Obama said he and Abe were united in their “determination to take strong actions” in response to North Korea’s nuclear test this month, which followed a successful long-range rocket launch last month. That has propelled the isolated, authoritarian state closer to having a weapon of mass destruction that could threaten the U.S.

Abe said he and Obama have agreed to push for tougher sanctions by the U.N. Security Council and spelled out why Pyongyang’s actions are cause for worry.

“They (North Korea) have increased the range of their missile immensely and have attained the ability to reach even the mainland United States,” Abe said at a Washington think tank after his White House visit. He said Pyongyang was also claiming it has made a smaller nuclear bomb that could be delivered by missile.

Speaking through a translator, the Japanese leader said this was why the United States was pressuring China to exert more influence over its North Korean ally. Abe said it was important for the entire international community to do the same.

Most experts believe North Korea is still some years away from being able to hit America, although its shorter-range missiles could already threaten its neighbors.

Abe, a nationalist and advocate of Japanese relations with the United States, is the latest in a revolving door of Japanese prime ministers — the fifth since Obama took office. That’s made it difficult to establish a personal rapport between Japanese and U.S. leaders, notwithstanding the enduring nature of the bilateral relationship. Japan hosts about 50,000 American forces and is a cornerstone of Washington’s Asia policy.

His first stint as prime minister was cut short in 2007 by ill health, but Abe’s now riding high in the polls. He outlined Friday his policy to revive his nation after years of malaise by building a strong economy and strong national defense.

“Japan is not, and will never be, a tier-two country,” Abe said. “That is the core message I am here to make. And I reiterate this by saying, I am back, and so shall Japan be.”

He promised to enhance Japan’s role in international affairs, build its cooperation with other democracies and promote open use of the seas and rules-based trade.

Japan’s relationship with Washington has assumed more importance for Tokyo in recent months as it has locked horns with China over the control of unoccupied islands in the resource-rich seas between them.

The dispute flared after Tokyo nationalized some of the islands in September. China also claims the tiny islands, which it calls Diaoyu. It has stepped up patrols into what Japan considers its territorial waters, heightening concern that a conflict could be sparked. The tensions highlight the rivalry between China, the world’s second-largest economy, and Japan, which is the third.

Obama did not address the dispute in his brief remarks, but separately, Secretary of State John Kerry complimented Japan on the restraint it has shown and its efforts to prevent a “significant confrontation.”

Abe said that Japan had no intention of escalating the dispute and that his door was always open to Chinese leaders.

But he had some words of defiance, too, over Japan’s sovereignty of the islands.

“We simply cannot tolerate any challenge now and in the future,” Abe said. “No nation should make any miscalculation about firmness of our resolve. No one should ever doubt the robustness of the Japan-U.S. alliance.”

The U.S. has treaty obligations to help Japan in the event of a conflict, obligations Abe said were a stabilizing factor in ensuring peace and stability in the region.

In comments that will be welcomed by Washington, Abe held out an olive branch to South Korea, a key U.S. ally that shares Japan’s concern over North Korea’s provocations.

He said the Japan-South Korea relationship was “extremely important” and he wanted to resolve the differences between them. The two Asian democracies have bickered over another island dispute, and Seoul believes Tokyo lacks contrition for its colonial past and use of Korean sex slaves during World War II.

Friday’s meeting was an opportunity for the U.S. to gauge Tokyo’s intent to join negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a regionwide free-trade pact pushed by Washington.

Abe held back from such a commitment that could prove politically risky before key elections in July for the upper house of the legislature, known as the Diet. Joining TPP is opposed by most of his party and Japan’s small but politically powerful farming lobby.

However, a joint statement said the two leaders had agreed to continue their talks about Japan’s “possible interest” in joining TPP. It appeared to offer some new wiggle room for Abe. It acknowledged sensitivities for Japan on certain agricultural products and for some manufactured products for the U.S.

The statement said that while all goods would be subject to negotiation, a prior commitment to eliminate all tariffs was not required.

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  • Roy Batty

    Thanks to China, Filipinos now wants MDT with Japan.

  • http://twitter.com/phisch4 phisch

    Abe is quite hysterical and naive. Japan will never be second class, good for you, but don’t mean that other nations should and would be.

    As for the Senkakus, it is not Japan’s, no mistake about it.

    If Abe wants to be enemy of Chinese, think it over. 1.8 BILLION PEOPLE WILL NOT TOLERATE IT.

    • wakats

      The next great war will not be dependent on the number of soldiers but on the number of warheads…..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5STEU22AD7YRHQSB6RE56ZDSYA J

    Have you wondered why China does not bother Malaysia in the Spratlys?

    IF YOU THINK THAT MALAYSIA, a member and founding member of ASEAN will side with the Philippines in the territorial disputes against China, think again. Have you noticed that even as Malaysia lays claims to and occupies a string of islands in the Spratlys (two of which they stole from us), China has not bothered to talk them down?

    On the contrary, the two countries get on famously! In fact, a top China political advisor, Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is in Malaysia today to cement China-Malaysia ties announces China Communist Party official website. 

    Mr Jia, top China pulitburo official is in Malaysia with a 60-member delegation to sign a string of cooperation agreements which will be topped by the signing of documents to set up China’s Xiamen University’s first foreign branch and a contract to expand a seaport near the Kuantan industrial park. In fact, China has been trumpeting that it hopes “Jia’s visit would deepen bilateral education cooperation so as to make China-Malaysia traditional friendship last forever.”

    Well, our view is that this China visit to Malaysia is almost to be expected. China is now on a serious offensive using “Salami tactics” aimed in large part at isolating “insolent” little Philippines and Vietnam. And knowing Malaysia — and I mean,  know it very well, opportunistic Malaysia will grovel before China (just like they grovelled before the Japanese in WWII — such is the character of the Malaysians) even if it means not playing the ASEAN card, i.e., “one for all, all for one” sort of thing, for as long a string of UMNO and BN hotshots, including their Chinese-Malaysia lackeys, get their fair share of the booty. 

    What has Malaysia got to lose? Nothing. What have they got to win? Everything! China will be leaving them alone in the Spratlys; perhaps will even protect Malaysia in the future when the Philippines finally wakes up from the dead and decide to take Sabah back. And of course, the icing on the cake is more trade growth. You see,China-Malaysia trade grew 5.3 percent on an annual basis last year to reach 94.8 billion U.S. dollars. 

    Both Malaysia and China have one major thing in common — they have hijacked territories in the Spratlys well within the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines — in other words, territories that rightfully belong to the Philippines, to exploit exclusively if PH so wants. 

    Not only has Malaysia illegally annexed Sabah, it also now uses Sabah to lay claims and to occupy other islets, reefs, shoals that they say are within Sabah’s 200 nautical mile EEZ. In 1999, Malaysia occupied Gabriela Silang Reef (Erica Reef) and Pawikan Reef (Investigator Shoal), causing the Philippines to protest but nothing came out of it.Malaysia also occupied Swallow Reef (Celerio for the Philippines), which they now call Layang-Layang, on the basis that it is within Sabah’s EEZ and have been maintaining a Malaysia Navy offshore security post called Uniform Station on the reef.

    Posted by NEMO NOS IMPUNE LACESSIT at 13:07
    http //sabah-claim-society blogspot com/search/label/China-Malaysia%20mega%20deals

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