New Japanese PM confirms US ties

Japan’s new Prime Minister Naoto Kan and US President Barack Obama held a telephone conversation Sunday in which they affirmed ties strained by a row over a US base in Okinawa, news reports said.


During the 15-minute call, Obama congratulated Kan on his election Friday, when he replaced Yukio Hatoyama, who had become mired in a political funding scandal and a dispute over the location of the US base, Jiji Press said.

Obama told Kan the two countries needed to strengthen co-operation based on their equal partnership, Jiji reported.

Kan, a one-time leftist activist, agreed with Obama and added: “I recognise common points between the president’s activities as a community activist in the past and my political career based on citizens’ activities.”

Kan said he looked forward to meeting Obama on the sidelines of this month’s Group of Eight and G20 summits in Canada, Jiji and other news reports said.

Following in Hatoyama’s footsteps

The two leaders agreed to follow the accord reached by the Hatoyama cabinet on the relocation of the US base on Okinawa, the news reports said.

Hatoyama resigned Wednesday after backtracking on an election promise to move the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma off the southern Japanese island, enraging locals and the pacifist Social Democrats, who quit his coalition.

In late May, Tokyo and Washington agreed that the air base would be moved, as first agreed in 2006, from a crowded city area on Okinawa to the island’s coastal Henoko region.

As the dispute simmered, Hatoyama and his ministers baffled leaders in the United States, Japan’s bedrock ally since World War II, with vague or contradictory statements.

Obama and Kan also agreed to cooperate on key diplomatic issues, including the sinking of a South Korean warship and talks at the UN Security Council against Iran in response to its nuclear programme, reports said.

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