State visit underscores strong ties between Japan and USA

President Obama and Michele with Mr. and Mrs. Abe before the State Dinner Photo Ludo Segers

The warm feelings were clearly visible in the way both leaders addressed each other during a number of public events, starting in the morning with the arrival with pump and circumstance in the morning on the South Lawn of the White House and later during the press conference. They all centred on the benefits that such outstanding relations bring to peace and prosperity.

In his opening remarks, President Barack Obama said: “It is an alliance that holds lessons for the world.” He added: “Two former adversaries 70 years ago have overcome their differences and become strong allies.” He summed the relation up with a Japanese phrase ‘Otagai no tame ni’ or in English “with and for each other”. Prime Minister Abe said: “Japan and the United States are partners who share basic values, such as freedom, democracy, and basic human rights, and the rule of law.”

While most of the talks concentrated on trade, the two leaders also discussed global security and defence issues and human dignity. President Obama pointed out that Japan together with the USA opposes Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, provides relief to civilians threatened by ISIL and is now offering help to the people of Nepal. Not diminishing the relationship with China, a central piece of the talk centred on Japan taking on a greater role and responsibility in Asia-Pacific and around the world. The talks also focused the integrity of Japan’s territory, including the Senkaku islands and the controversial US military base on the Southern Islands of Okinawa. The President confirmed his commitment to relocate the Marines from Okinawa to nearby US administered island of Guam. 

Over the last days, there have also been a host of agreements to further pursue peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and in particular address the continuing North Korean provocations. President Obama pointed to a trilateral cooperation with Korea and Australia to enhance security across the Pacific region.

Both the US and Japan appear to be strongly committed to developing closer economic ties and see that as a centrepiece to promoting progress and peace in the Pacific region. They hope that the advanced talks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will lead to more prosperity for the region and for workers in the USA and Japan. These trade talks have increasingly also focused on environmental issues, as climate change is high on the present US administration’s agenda.

It was a long day for the president and Michel Obama as they hosted an elaborate State Dinner in the White House for their Japanese guests.

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