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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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 Treaty with Japan Covers Islets in China Spat

The uninhabited islets in the East China Sea at the center of a bitter dispute between China and Japan are “clearly” covered by a 1960 security treaty obliging the United States to come to Japans aid if attacked, a top U.S. diplomat said on Thursday.

“We do not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of these islands,” Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee.

Japan has controlled the rocky islets since 1895 – except during the 1945-1972 U.S. post-war occupation of Okinawa – and calls them the Senkakus. China, and rival Taiwan, maintain they have an older claim and call them the Diaoyu islands.

“We do acknowledge clearly … that Japan maintains effective administrative control … and, as such, this falls clearly under Article 5 of the Security Treaty,” Campbell said at the panels hearing on Asian territorial disputes.

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US starts test flights of MV-22 Osprey in Japan

The U.S. Marines are conducting their first test flights of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft in Japan after months of protests there over safety concerns.

The hybrid aircraft can take off like a helicopter and fly like an airplane. Flight operations were conducted Friday at a base in southern Japan where they are temporarily deployed before being transferred to Okinawa.

Following two recent crashes, tens of thousands of Okinawans have protested the deployment, saying that they are not safe to fly in Okinawa’s crowded environment.

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US lawmakers call China a bully over maritime disputes

U.S. lawmakers Wednesday accused China of bullying its neighbors to press territorial claims in the South China Sea but also raised questions about America’s capacity to police the region.

Three congressional panels this week are scrutinizing what they consider to be the security threat posed by China and its human rights record.

With the presidential election two months away, Republican nominee Mitt Romney has accused President Barack Obama of being soft on China, particularly on trade issues, as he has tried to cultivate ties with the emerging superpower. But criticism dished out by members of the House Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday was directed squarely at Beijing.

The committee’s Republican chairwoman, Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said China was a “schoolyard bully towards its maritime neighbors” that aspired to be the dominant power in Asia, controlling vital sea lanes that could be used to choke off commerce and oil shipments. She said the U.S. would stand by its allies, the Philippines and Japan.

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Japanese oil tanker, U.S. Navy ship collide

A Japanese-owned bulk oil tanker collided with a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer near the Strait of Hormuz early Sunday, but no one was injured on either vessel.The Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet said in a statement that the Panamanian-flagged M/V Otowasan, owned by a Japanese company, collided with the USS Porter at about 1 a.m.According to the Japanese Embassy in Bahrain, the tanker was able to continue operating after the collision and there was no leak of crude oil.


Soccer: US and Japan to face off at Olympics

Japan Soccer

Japan and the United States made it through the semifinals of the womens Olympic football tournament Monday, setting up a rematch of the World Cup final won by the Japanese just a year ago.Japan beat France 2-1 in London and the United States defeated Canada 4-3 in extra time in a thrilling match at Old Trafford in Manchester.

The U.S. will be going for revenge and its third-straight gold medal. Japan will be playing in its first Olympic final to try to show its World Cup win was not a fluke.

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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. 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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