Tuesday Japan announced it plans to give $5 billion in aid to Afghanistan even as it is going to bring home refueling ships supporting U.S.-led forces there. The pledge comes just days before President Barack Obama arrives in Tokyo for talks that are sure to focus on the countries' military alliance.
The announcement appears to be a way for Japan, which is barred from sending troops for combat by its pacifist constitution, to show support for Afghanistan's reconstruction while Obama reviews his options for a new strategy in the conflict.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's government, which wants to put Tokyo's ties with Washington on more equal footing, doesn't plan to extend Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean when it ends in January, partly because it lacks a mandate from the United Nations. Some members of Hatoyama's party also say the mission violates the country's constitution.
Japanese officials said the aid shouldn't be seen as simple replacement for the refueling mission, but aimed at creating jobs and supporting its development, The Associated Press reports.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama said he wants Japan to fulfill an agreement on moving an American military base that may overshadow his visit to Tokyo this week.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama came into office two months ago pledging to alter a 2006 accord that would relocate the Futenma Air Base within the island of Okinawa, host to more than half of the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan. His Democratic Party of Japan wants to move the facility off the island in response to local complaints about pollution and crime.
Obama, in an interview with NHK Television, said that while the U.S. is willing to give Japan some time, he expects Hatoyama to adhere to the agreement. The two spoke today in a call Obama initiated to explain his decision to postpone his arrival in Japan by one day to Nov. 13 in order to attend a memorial for victims of last week’s shootings at an Army base in Texas.
“It’s perfectly appropriate for the new government to want to re-examine how to move forward,” Obama told NHK. “I’m confident that once that review is completed that they will conclude that the alliance we have, the basing arrangements that have been discussed, all those things serve the interest of Japan and they will continue,” Bloomberg reports.
It was also reported, President Barack Obama says he wants to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki sometime during his presidency but won't have time during this week's trip to Japan to go to the cities devastated by U.S. atomic bombs at the end of World War II.
No sitting U.S. president has visited the two cities largely because of the controversy it could raise at home.
In an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK that ran Tuesday, Obama said he would be unable to visit the cities on his trip to Japan this weekend due to time constraints but would be willing to do so in the future.
"The memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are etched in the minds of the world and I would be honored to have the opportunity to visit those cities at some point during my presidency," Obama said in the interview, done Monday at the White House, The Associated Press reports.