Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Unequally yoked

Posted by Charles II on April 27, 2010

Via Roubini, I became aware of an interesting issue that’s simmering in Asia. You may know that American soldiers are about as popular in Okinawa as they were in 1945. Aside from the problem common to quartering troops of providing them sexual outlets, which has in the past led to several anti-American explosions, US facilities create headaches for an area that has developed rapidly since the facilities were built. The Japanese would like all American troops off Okinawa. The US is refusing to go, creating a very awkward situation between ostensible allies. First, John Pomfret, WaPo:

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada presented U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos with a proposal to settle the dispute, telling him that Japan was moving toward accepting significant parts of a 2006 deal to move the Futenma air station from the center of a city of 92,000 to a less populated part of Okinawa, the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue….

The U.S. alliance with Japan is the centerpiece of American policy in Asia and has been a foundation of security in the region for decades. As the alliance has wavered, concern has spread across the region, with officials from South Korea to Australia expressing worries about the future of the U.S. security role.

The meeting Friday followed a brief and blunt tete-a-tete between President Obama and Hatoyama on April 12 during the prime minister’s visit to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit. During the 10-minute encounter, Obama told Hatoyama that the two countries were “running out of time” and asked him whether he could be trusted. Japanese officials were so taken aback by the toughness of Obama’s tone that they did not draw up a written record of the words exchanged between the two leaders, sources said.

Next, Edward Wong, NYT:

The Chinese military is seeking to project naval power well beyond the Chinese coast, from the oil ports of the Middle East to the shipping lanes of the Pacific, where the United States Navy has long reigned as the dominant force, military officials and analysts say. ..

China’s naval ambitions are being felt, too, in recent muscle flexing with the United States: in March, Chinese officials told senior American officials privately that China would brook no foreign interference in its territorial issues in the South China Sea, said a senior American official involved in China policy….

Japan is anxious, too. Its defense minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, said in mid-April that two Chinese submarines and eight destroyers were spotted on April 10 heading between two Japanese islands [at a guess, Miyakojima and Kume, off Shanghai] en route to the Pacific, the first time such a large Chinese flotilla had been seen so close to Japan. When two Japanese destroyers began following the Chinese ships, a Chinese helicopter flew within 300 feet of one of the destroyers, the Japanese Defense Ministry said.

Japanese territorial waters

If the Chinese wanted to guarantee an American presence in Japan, sending warships through Japan’s territorial waters without pre-agreement probably accomplished that. On the other hand, if Obama wanted to guarantee that the Japanese government would change hands, asking the prime minister if he could be trusted, probably achieved that.

3 Responses to “Unequally yoked”

  1. […] this lawsuit!; more local-is-national news, Harry Reid gets real; Japanfilter comes to you from the continuing controversy of American troops at Okinawa; loopholes in the health insurance reform bill; Haven’t I been telling you for 7 years that […]

  2. Dan said

    Thanks for dropping the link to this at my place, Charles.

    The possibility of China using an American exit to take a more aggressive stance with its neighbors is very real, and God knows there’s bad blood between them and Japan. I know there are risks associated with closing foreign bases, but at the moment no one is even attempting a cost/benefit analysis. It just defaults to “keep everything, add more.”

    • Charles II said

      Sure, Dan. The best solution is for all of Asia to secure itself while the US gracefully bows out. Unfortunately the US imagines that control = power. Instead, as we see so vividly in Iraq and Afghanistan, control = enemies.

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