U.S. to Abe: Collective self-defense off agenda for U.S. summit

Washington does not want Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring up the issue of collective self-defense at the Japan-U.S. summit to be held later this month, diplomatic sources said.

The U.S. reaction comes as Abe hopes to bolster bilateral security ties by gaining President Barack Obama’s support for lifting Japan’s self-imposed ban on the right, which conflicts with Article 9 of the Constitution.

Washington has told Tokyo that if Obama openly welcomes Abe’s drive to allow Self-Defense Forces troops to engage in collective self-defense — the right to come to the defense of an ally under armed attack — it risks upsetting Beijing, which might interpret the gesture as an attempt by Japan and the U.S. to increase pressure on China, according to the sources.

U.S. officials also said during preparatory talks for the summit, set to be held Feb. 21 or 22, that heightening Sino-Japanese tensions with Washington’s close involvement could damage regional stability and harm the interests of Japan and the U.S., they said.

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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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China and Japan looking to the U.S. on disputed islands

As China and Japan continue to wrangle over a chain of uninhabited islands that have sparked protests in both countries, near-miss naval incidents, and lots of tough words, diplomats from both Asian powers are increasingly emphasizing the United States’s role in the dispute.

The United States seems to be trying to stay as far away from the dispute as possible. But the fact that both China and Japan already seem to perceive the United States as implicitly involved, simply by virtue of it being the dominant Pacific military and diplomatic power, speaks to the difficulty America may face in navigating the coming Pacific century.

The official U.S. position on the islands — Diaoyu in Chinese, Senkaku in Japanese, claimed by both — is a bit contradictory. The State Department says it has no position and leaves it to China and Japan to decide, but also that, in the event of a military conflict over the island, America’s treaty with Japan would require it to take that country’s side.

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U.S. Pilot Rescued After Crash Off Japan Coast

The pilot of a U.S. fighter jet that crashed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of northeastern Japan on Sunday has been rescued, Japans Coast Guard said, six hours after the aircraft went down.

The pilot, whose name was not disclosed, was placed safely on a U.S. container ship in the region around 6 p.m. 0900 GMT, according to the coast guard, one of several agencies that sent vessels to assist in the rescue.

The F-16 Fighter Falcon went down some 200 miles northeast of Hokkaido, Japans northernmost island, according to an earlier statement by the U.S. Air Force.

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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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Noda Risks Ruling Party Split With U.S. Free Trade Talks

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda risks sparking the deepest split in his party since taking office two months ago as he determines whether to join trade talks with the U.S., his country’s No. 2 export destination.

Noda, who last week responded to exporters’ concern over the yen’s strength with what might have been the biggest currency intervention on record, set a deadline of this week for proceeding with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP would slash tariffs like Japan’s 778 percent duty on rice and open competition in industries including pharmaceuticals, stirring the opposition of about half of ruling-party lawmakers.

With South Korea having reached a deal with the U.S., failure to proceed ahead of a Nov. 12-13 Asia-Pacific summit risks further diminishing the stature of a nation surpassed by China as the world’s second-largest economy. Noda, Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years, will have to draw on his political skills to head off an intraparty rebellion.

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Japan trying to repair ties with Washington

The new Japanese government is trying to earn back trust from the United States, its most important ally, by showing support for initiatives that recent prime ministers in Tokyo have let languish.

The ideas include support for a multi-nation free-trade agreement and for allowing easier exports of Japanese weapons technology, ventures that have strong support in Washington. New Japanese leaders have also signaled their intention to carry out a long-stalled agreement with Washington that would put the U.S. Marine presence in Okinawa on a more solid footing.

New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has brought some close allies and some fresh faces to his cabinet, and struck a confident tone Friday as he faces the massive challenges that confront him. (Sept. 2)

But it is not clear whether Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has the political capital to carry out these plans, which face strong opposition in Japan, while also focusing on domestic concerns, particularly those related to fiscal tightening and disaster reconstruction.

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Japan Ready for the Big Match vs. USA in the Women’s World Cup Final

Japan is gearing up for its first Women’s World Cup final as the national team gets ready to face the US with the hopes of a subdued nation on its shoulders.

Although kick off for Sunday night’s final in Germany will be 3:45 a.m. local time, Monday is a national holiday in Japan so bars and restaurants across the country are staying open to show the game live.

Grateful for some good news after slow months of painful recovery from the March mega-quake and tsunami – not to mention the ongoing nuclear crisis and political deadlock – the women’s team unexpected run to the final has lifted morale in Japan.

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US Senate acts to freeze move of base in Japan

US senators said Friday that they have taken a major step to halt a controversial military base plan on Japan’s Okinawa island and called on the Pentagon to make a fresh assessment.

Brushing aside insistence by the two governments that plans should go ahead, the Senate Armed Services Committee agreed to bar any funds to move troops from Japan to Guam and ordered a new study on Okinawa’s flashpoint Futenma base.

The language was part of an annual defense funding act approved Thursday. It needs approval from the full Senate and House of Representatives, but senators involved said that their actions on Asian bases enjoyed broad support.

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