US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first Asia trip of 2010 got off to a slow start Tuesday. She met her Japanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Honolulu, where little progress was made on resolving the diplomatic row over moving a US airbase.
The original deal, reached in 2006, had arranged to move a US airbase in Okinawa, which is home to most of the 47,000 US army personnel based in Japan, to a less populated area on the island's coast. Both parties aimed to ease tensions caused by locals who are irriated by noise, crime and the fear of accidents.
But the process was upturned when the Democratic Party of Japan, which had campaigned on taking a less subservient stance towards the USA, came to power in a landslide victory last August.
Now, the new alliance is talking about moving the base off Okinawa, and possibly out of Japan altogether.
The DPJ says that it will form a proposal for a new site by May, and Secretary of State Clinton says she is confident that a deal will eventually be reached.
The base issue is a thorny one for American diplomats. "Asia has emerged as a diplomatic hornet's nest," says New York Times writer Mark Landler, citing tensions between the US, China and Japan as well as the longstanding issue of North Korea
Sources: Mark Landler, "Clinton Tries to Defuse Asian Tension," New York Times, January 12, 2010,http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/world/asia/13diplo.html?hpw
Agence France Presse (hosted by Channel NewsAsia), "Clinton gets no commitment from Japan on ending air base row," January 13, 2010,http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/1030268/1/.h...
Rolad Buerk, "US airbase tests relations with Japan," BBC News, January 12, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8448811.stm