Tokyo, Nov 25: Japan-U.S. relations during the second term of President Barack Obama will depend much on the stability of political leadership in Tokyo, a leading American expert on Japan has said.
Obama’s re-election and the upcoming general election in Japan will make 2013 a crucial year to resolve the continuing deadlock over relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Kent Calder, director of the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said.
“Some modifications to the 2006 agreement between the two governments may be needed to make the plan ‘politically feasible’”, he said.
According to the Japan Times, Calder was speaking at an event organized by the Keizai Koho Center on Nov 14 to discuss the outcome of the U.S. presidential election and its policy implications, including relations with Japan.
Obama’s presidential victory ‘gave him an opportunity to create a legacy’ in the next four years, Calder said.
“Up until now, he has had to worry about re-election, and now he can look more toward (the) future – toward the question of what he leaves behind to history as president of the United States,” he said.
According to the report, Tokyo-Washington ties were strained in 2009 and 2010 when the Democratic Party of Japan-led government under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama tried to change the 2006 bilateral agreement to relocate functions of Futenma in Ginowan to a new site in northern Okinawa – only to give up later and aggravate local opposition to the plan.
Calder said that the existing plan will require some modifications ‘to make it politically feasible’, although he noted that the basic framework for closing the base and moving some of its facilities ‘within Japan’ needs to be maintained, the report added.
He also said that regardless of what the Obama administration wants in relations with Japan, “an awful lot depends on Japan – the future of Japanese politics and leadership,” he said.
According to the report, Calder also said that Japan needs to ‘go beyond the old pattern’ of Washington setting the agenda in bilateral relations and Tokyo responding to it.
“The idea of a serious and proactive agenda from Tokyo is important to the health of our alliance, to give it more symmetry and balance, and in order for that to happen, a stable leadership in Japan is going to be absolutely crucial,” Calder said. (ANI)