“Our commitment to Japan’s security is absolute and article five [of the security treaty] covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku islands,” Obama said during a joint press conference with Abe. “We don’t take a position on final sovereignty on the Senkakus but historically they’ve been administered by Japan and should not be subject to change unilaterally. [Guardian]
THE REPORTS of President Obama watching a robot took up most of the air on Thursday, as he visited Japan. The New York Times reports, according to administration officials, “that some progress had been made in trade talks,” which is a way of making lemonade out of lemons, something Obama couldn’t do on Middle East peace talks, which have officially ended.
Mr. Obama had hoped to use his visit here to announce an agreement under which Japan would open its markets in rice, beef, poultry and pork, a critical step toward the trade pact. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not able to overcome entrenched resistance from Japan’s farmers in time for the president’s visit. [New York Times]
President Obama sent a clear signal to Japan that the U.S. has got their back against any China meddling over the Senkaku islands.
The president’s statement about the United States’ obligations toward Japan was important because it was the first time he had explicitly put the disputed islands under American protection, though Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently made the same statement and the policy has been held by successive administrations.
“This is a very important turning point for the United States-Japan alliance because it means the period of drift under President Obama has finally come to an end,” said Yuichi Hosoya, an expert on American-Japanese relations at Keio University in Tokyo. “The fact that this was said by the president will have a huge psychological impact on Japanese officials and people.”
The Chinese government reacted swiftly, saying it was “firmly opposed” to Mr. Obama’s position. More than anything, Mr. Obama appeared eager to defuse tensions over the islands, referring to them as a “rock” and saying they should not be allowed to derail a relationship that could otherwise be productive.
Obama will be in South Korea on Friday. As CNN reports, he’ll be playing his role as “consoler-in-chief,” as South Korea attempts to pull itself together after the horrific ferry accident that has led to charges against those involved against crew members that jumped ship while their passengers died.