Sun, Feb 24, 2013 - Page 1 News List

‘Japan is back,’ prime minister declares in US

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Japan`s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference at a Washington hotel on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

Declaring that “Japan is back,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met US President Barack Obama on Friday for closed-door White House meetings on security affairs and the economy.

The sessions could have great significance for Taiwan and its claims to the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台). While few details were revealed, the meetings appeared to go well for Japan, with the US seeming to confirm its support for Tokyo in the event of a military clash with Beijing over the islands.

Taiwan has asked for a special briefing on the meetings and an Obama administration source said that such a briefing was possible.

If that happens over the next few days, the briefing is likely to be given to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office by US National Security Council Senior Director for Asia Daniel Russel.

Taiwan, China and Japan all claim sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands — known in Japan as the Senkakus — leading to an increasingly dangerous situation in the East China Sea.

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) called on Friday for “peace and stability” in the region and said an initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was aimed at promoting dialogue.

Following his meetings, Abe sounded confident and buoyant. In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, he said that he was increasing Japan’s budget for homeland defense.

“I will bring back a strong Japan, strong enough to do even more good for the betterment of the world,” he said.

He said that history and international law “both attest” that the islands were Japan’s sovereign territory.

However, Japan must stay strong, he said, repeating that he would increase the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s budget. During his speech — titled “Japan is Back” — Abe kept repeating the theme.

“I am back, and so shall Japan be,” he said in the opening to the speech.

In concluding his speech, he reiterated: “Japan is back. Keep counting on my country.”

Asked what he wanted from the US on the Senkakus issue, Abe said in an obvious reference to China: “It is important that we do not tolerate people’s actions when they try to alter the ‘status quo’ based on force.”

Speaking through an interpreter, Abe said: “On the Senkakus issue, our intention is not to ask the US to do this or that or to say this or that. We intend to protect our territory. The Senkaku Islands are inherently Japanese territory and we intend to continue to protect our own territory well into the future. At the same time, our intention is to deal with this issue in a reserved manner.”

Following his first meeting with Abe — held in the morning — Obama said they had “close consultations” on a wide range of security issues, including North Korea and its recent nuclear test.

The second meeting concentrated on economic issues.

Abe said during a short interview in the Oval Office: “I can declare with confidence that the trust and the bond in our alliance is back.”

He said the security environment in the Asia-Pacific was becoming increasingly difficult and a “new order” was needed based on cooperation between the US and Japan to “secure the freedom of the seas and to secure a region that is governed based on laws, not on force.”

Abe said Japan would act calmly over the Senkakus issue and that the US and that Japan had agreed to stay “in close coordination” with each other.

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