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Kishida, Clinton to discuss security issues amid Diaoyu Islands tension
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida left for Washington on Friday to strengthen the Japan-US security alliance amid its maritime dispute with China, as the US repeatedly stated its wish for cooler heads to prevail.
Kishida will meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss the framework for dialogue over the China-Japan maritime dispute.
The two countries plan to send a "clear signal" emphasizing the need to reduce the current tension, Japanese Kyodo News Agency cited an anonymous high-level US official as saying.
According to Kyodo, the official showed great concern over the situation, saying the US government has been gradually paying more attention to the Diaoyu Islands row.
In Tokyo on Thursday, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell appealed for calm in the dispute.
Observers said the US would not like to see the situation in East Asia become so tense that it threatens Washington's interests in the region.
The US hopes to calm the situation in order to prevent its economic interests from being damaged, said Lu Yaodong, a researcher on Japanese studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The US economy, which relies significantly on Asia, is attempting to take advantage of Asia's dynamic development to boost its own economy, so it will not let the situation get out of control, said Feng Zhaokui, a Japan analyst.
The US hopes to dominate economic cooperation among regional players, so it will not want Japan or China to take the initiative, he added.
On the phone with Clinton last week, Kishida said he hoped to "strengthen the bilateral security alliance of the two countries for the further stability of the Asia-Pacific region".
Kishida said that the rebuilding of bilateral ties is just a prelude as Japan seeks to improve its relationship with its neighbors, particularly China and South Korea, said Kyodo.
Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, the stalled relocation of the US military base in Okinawa and the possible revision of guidelines that define the scope of the Japan-US defense cooperation may also be included in the discussions.
According to the anonymous US official, the US has informally shown concern over Japan's attempt to revise the statement of then-chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono in 1993 that apologized for the use of "comfort women". This shows Washington's desire to alleviate the tension in Japan-South Korea relations.
Japan's unrepentant attitude toward its atrocities, including the use of "comfort women", during World War II triggered great dissatisfaction in South Korea. Subsequent disputes over islands worsened the ties between the two countries.
Japan's historical use of "comfort women" violates US human rights values, said Lu, adding that Washington is also keeping an eye on the trend toward militarism in Japan, so it will gently warn its ally.
The US needs Japan and South Korea, two of its allies in Asia, to assist it with its pivot to the region. It does not want Japan-South Korea ties to become fractured, Feng said.
Kishida's visit will pave the way for the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the US in February. The prime minister hoped to visit the US in January to demonstrate that the Japan-US alliance is a top priority, but Washington postponed his visit due to President Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan 21.
According to Kyodo, many US and Japanese diplomats said the US hopes that Abe, during his February trip, will agree to let the military base remain in Okinawa, participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement and lift the ban on importing US beef.
(China Daily 01/19/2013 page7)