Clinton Assures Japan on Islands Inviting Abe to U.S. in February

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured Japan on Friday of U.S. support in Tokyo’s dispute with Beijing over a string of islands and invited new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Washington in late February for a meeting with President Barack Obama.

Clinton held a working lunch with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, and both emerged pledging that U.S.-Japan security and economic ties would remain strong following Abe’s landslide election victory last month.

“Our alliance with Japan remains the cornerstone of American engagement with the region,” Clinton told reporters, noting a wide range of cooperation on everything from disaster relief to the stand-off over nuclear North Korea.

Clinton, due to step down in coming weeks, again affirmed that the United States would stand by its longtime ally in its territorial dispute with China over islets in the East China Sea claimed by both countries.

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U.S. Senate Approves Bill Stating Senkaku Islands Covered by Japan-US Security Pact

On Tuesday the United States Senate passed a defense policy bill that see Washington acknowledging that the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are covered by the bilateral security treaty between Japan and the U.S. This move will more than surely anger China, as it recently had to be informed that while the U.S. remains quiet on the territorial dispute, it is not neutral in which country it will support.

The bill is seen as a reaffirmation of the U.S.’s commitments to the Japanese government under Article V of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, which was formed post-WWII. The U.S. says it will acknowledge that Japan has administration over the Senkaku Islands, located in the East China Sea, and the actions of a third-party will not change that stance, the bill states in a nod towards China‘s aggressive actions over the dispute. The overall point of the Japan-U.S. security treaty is that the United States will defend its asian ally in the event of an armed attack.

Once the bill passes through the House of Representatives, it is expected to be signed by U.S. President Barack Obama. On another topic, the bill also contains an amendment that cuts the $26 million budged for relocating some of the U.S. forces stationed in Okinawa to Guam, something the people of Japan’s southernmost island have been demanding for years. The Japanese government has agreed to pay half of the relocation fees, up to $830 million, and the U.S. repeatedly stated it make efforts to reduce the Okinawa’s burden of hosting more than half of all the troops stationed in Japan, however little action has been taken over the years and no timeframes have been set.

US Delays Osprey Flights Until Japan Agrees on Safety

The U.S. will delay flight operations by Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys in Okinawa until the Japanese government agrees that the hybrid aircraft is safe, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday.

Panetta told Pentagon reporters that U.S. officials are completing a safety report and will provide Japanese leaders with details on two recent Osprey crashes in Florida and Morocco.

His comments came after he met with Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, who then left the Pentagon for a flight on an Osprey to the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va.

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President Obama Sits With Japan Prime Minister Noda

President Barack Obama met Monday with Japans sixth prime minister in five years to try to strengthen ties with the Pacific economic power still struggling after last years earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear power plant meltdown.

The president and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda started bilateral talks at the White House, to be followed by a working lunch and then a joint news conference.

Japans volatile domestic politics, amid economic sluggishness and the March 2011 tsunami-triggered nuclear crisis, have made continuity a challenge in relations between the World War II enemies turned industrial allies.

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U.S. and Japan Move to Transfer Okinawa Marines to Guam

Japan and the United States agreed Wednesday to proceed with plans to transfer thousands of U.S. troops out of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, leaving behind the stalled discussion about closing a major U.S. Marine base there.

The transfer, a key to U.S. troop restructuring in the Pacific, has been in limbo for years because it was linked to the closure and replacement of the strategically important base that Okinawans fiercely oppose.

The announcement Wednesday follows high-level talks to rework a 2006 agreement for 8,000 Marines to transfer to the U.S. territory of Guam by 2014 if a replacement for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma could be built elsewhere on Okinawa.

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Japan to cut oil imports from Iran, says Finance Minister Azumi

Japan is prepared to gradually reduce the amount of oil it imports from Iran, Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Thursday, as the United States seeks to muster international support to put fresh pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

Japan imports 10% of its crude oil from Iran at the moment, Azumi said at a news briefing after meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The country is ready to decrease that level “in a planned manner,” he said.

“What I told the secretary is that we have already reduced Iranian oil imports by 40% in the past five years,” Azumi said, standing next to Geithner. “The nuclear development issue is an issue that the international community cannot overlook, so we very much understand the U.S. action.”

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APEC: President Obama And Prime Minister Noda Of Japan

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I just want to welcome Prime Minister Noda to Hawaii, to the United States, for this APEC meeting. I had the opportunity to have my first extensive discussions with the Prime Minister recently, and I have been extremely impressed already with the boldness of his vision. And we confirmed, once again, the importance for both of our countries — the alliance between the United States and Japan is the cornerstone of our relationship but also for security in the Asia-Pacific region for a very long time and I’m confident that working together we can continue to build on that relationship in the areas of commerce, the areas of security, in not only the Asia-Pacific region but around the world.

And Prime Minister Noda, welcome to Honolulu, where I’m sure that we’ll have another round of productive discussions. And I want to thank you and the people of Japan for your friendship. We continue also, by the way, to be concerned about the rebuilding process in the wake of the terrible earthquake and tsunami. And I want to assure you that the American people continue to stand beside you and ready to help in any way they can.

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Senator Levin: Japan a U.S. job killer – TPP

Sen. Carl Levin urged President Barack Obama to keep Japan from participating in nine-party free trade talks, saying its policies amount to "a U.S. job killer."

As early as Thursday in Tokyo, the Japanese government will announce whether it wants to participate in Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement negotiations with the United States.

The Detroit Democrat said in a strongly worded letter that Japan must first "reverse decades of protecting its home auto market," and he urged Obama to "clearly oppose any effort by Japan to join the TPP at this time."

Japan, the world’s third-biggest economy, also has the world’s third-largest auto market.

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Inside Deutsche Bank Debate on U.S. Sliding Into Japan Malaise

Deutsche Bank AG’s Ajay Kapur says the U.S. is sliding into an economic malaise similar to Japan’s so-called lost-decade of the 1990s. The Hong Kong-based strategist draws the parallel using similarities in demographics and financial-market performance.

Binky Chadha, head of the bank’s U.S. equity strategy team in New York, and Michael Biggs, one of its London-based economists, disagree, citing variations in the nations’ growth rates and credit demands.

The researchers aired their differences in a 28-page report Deutsche Bank released October 17 and distributed to clients. The debate underscores the uncertainties facing the world’s largest economy. Fifty-six percent of respondents in a quarterly Bloomberg Global Poll of 1,031 investors, analysts and traders said a Japan-like scenario is “very” or “fairly” likely.

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Obama meets new Japan PM, seeks progress on US Marine base relocation

President Barack Obama vowed continued U.S. help for key ally Japan to rebuild after its devastating earthquake and tsunami but also pushed for progress on a long-delayed plan to relocate American forces in the country.

Obama held his first meeting Wednesday with Yoshihiko Noda, Japan’s newest prime minister. Noda has held office for less than a month and faces domestic challenges beyond the natural disasters, including a stagnant economy and a crushing national debt. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

Noda is Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years. He also said rebuilding is his top priority. More than 20,000 people died or were left missing after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan that sent a nuclear power plant into meltdown. It was the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl and led another 100,000 people to leave their homes because of a radiation threat.

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