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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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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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 picks Lockheed F-35 fighter as allies stress tight ties

Japan picked Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet as its next mainstay fighter on Tuesday, choosing the aircraft over combat-proven but less stealthy rivals, as concern simmers over North Korea and as China introduces its own stealth fighters.

The decision came as Japan and the United States stressed that their security alliance was tight in the face of worry about an unstable North Korea after the death of its leader, Kim Jong-il.

Defence Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said the decision to buy 42 of the stealth aircraft, valued by analysts at more than $7 billion, would help Japan adjust to a changing security environment after Monday’s announcement of the death of the 69-year-old North Korean leader.

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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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Panetta: US military at ‘turning point’ as wars wind down, will refocus more on Asia

The winding down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan marks a pivot point for the U.S. military, which must now focus on looming threats such as the rising military might of China, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday.

Panetta used his first visit to Japan as Pentagon chief to sound an emerging theme of the Obama administration: America will remain a global economic and military power despite coming budget reductions, and the Asia-Pacific region will be central to U.S. national security strategy.

In a question-and-answer session with U.S. and Japanese troops at Yokota Air Base, Panetta ticked off a list of threats that he said demand more U.S. attention as it completes its departure from Iraq this year and targets 2014 for the withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan. He mentioned cyberattacks, the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, Mideast turmoil and “rising powers” — an allusion to China.

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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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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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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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