Japan's leader wants more equal ties with U.S.
Japan’s prime minister said this week he will press for a more equal relationship with the United States during this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of a joint security treaty allowing forward-deployed U.S. forces in the country.
The comments came after months of building friction between the two governments, mainly over Japan’s reconsideration of a 2006 agreement to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, to a planned airfield at Camp Schwab along the island’s rural northeast coast.
An ideal relationship with the United States would be more open and equal, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said following a nationally televised New Year’s address Monday.
“It’s important to show that Japan and the United States are in a relationship in which we need each other,” he said. The two nations should not accept a situation where “we just give up what we want to say only because it’s difficult, or where one simply obeys the other.”
Hatoyama and his ruling coalition wrested control from the Liberal Democratic Party in September, breaking a streak of political dominance that dated to the signing of the security treaty in 1960.
The new government said it will make a decision by May on how to proceed with the Okinawa alignment plan, which was signed in 2006 after years of negotiations by both countries.
The delay is not the only development creating friction between the longtime allies.
Japan is also mulling updates to the 50-year-old security agreement that could impose new environmental regulations on U.S. military bases. The U.S. currently has little responsibility for cleaning up sites used by the military in Japan.
Meanwhile, at the end of November, in a display of cooperation between Japan and the U.S., Japan invited Chinese defense officials onto Sasebo Naval Base, shared with the U.S. Navy. Members of China’s Defense Ministry were brought aboard a Japanese destroyer equipped with Aegis anti-ballistic missile technology, which was given to Japan by the U.S. and would be a key tool in any defense against Chinese or North Korean missiles.