US patches up frayed relations with Japanese
Thursday 18 April 1996
In form, the meeting between Mr Clinton and the Japanese Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto, has been conventional enough. But the contrasts with previous summits, dominated by fractious arguments about trade, are striking.
The joint statement exchanged by the two leaders in front of the Akasaka Palace yesterday was itself an indication of the change of emphasis. The meat of the agreement was about security, a forceful confirmation of the status quo in the face of gathering uncertainty inside and outside Japan.
The Joint Declaration on Security contains no surprises. The US will maintain 100,000 forward-deployed troops in Asia, and around 47,000 of these, the same number as before, will be based in Japan. The two sides will continue to cooperate on intelligence-gathering and strategy in times of crisis, and jointly develop the F2 support fighter. Tokyo will continue to pay for the maintenance of its military guests; Washington will continue to support Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
But behind all this mutual reaffirmation there is more than a little nervousness, and it comes at a crucial moment, both for Asian security as a whole and for America's particular interests in Japan.
Touted in the Joint Declaration as a celebration of "one of the most successful bilateral relationships in history", the summit is in many ways the culmination of a giant damage limitation exercise which began last September after the rape of a 12-year-old Japanese schoolgirl by three US servicemen on the island of Okinawa.
The crime galvanised long-standing resentment on the island, where three- quarters of all US bases and 29,000 US troops are concentrated. In October, 85,000 Okinawans rallied in protest at the US presence. The Prefecture Governor, Masahide Ota, refused to sign documents necessary for the compulsory leasing of land used by the bases. The dispute remains embarrassingly unresolved.
The Okinawa issue was in part pre-empted by the unveiling on Monday of an American plan to return one-fifth of the Okinawan land currently occupied by the bases. The cost, to be met by the Japanese, is estimated at 1 trillion yen.
But the visit is also a reflection of wider anxieties about Asia. Mr Clinton visited the aircraft carrier Independence which, less than a month ago, was nervously watching over Chinese missile tests in the Straits of Taiwan. Earlier, he and Mr Hashimoto discussed the situation on the Korean border, where North Korean troops violated the armistice earlier in the month. If war did break out on the peninsula, the American military effort would be supplied and coordinated from Okinawa.
But a fog of ambiguity surrounds Japan's actual role in the event of an emergency. Under the post-war constitution Japan is forbidden from "the use of force as a means of settling international disputes". Its military is strictly designated as the Self Defence Force. Any suggestion that it might operate outside the confines of Japanese territory is profoundly controversial.
US officials refuse to be drawn into discussion of another country's constitutional dilemmas; the Japanese say vaguely that their response to an emergency will depend on what that emergency may be. As Mr Clinton and Mr Hashimoto shook hands yesterday, there was a strong suspicion they were crossing their fingers behind their backs, and hoping their grand words would never be tested.
- 1 Florida man sentenced to two-and-a-half years for having sex on the beach in front of a child
- 2 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 3 Nick Kyrgios calls former Olympian Dawn Fraser a 'blatant racist' after she tells Wimbledon star to 'go back where their parents came from'
- 4 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
Greece debt crisis: Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande issue Athens with 24-hour ultimatum to avoid crashing out of the euro
Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy
£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...
£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...