Amid Chinese Aggression, Obama Affirms U.S. Defense of Japan’s Senkaku Islands

By Bruce Klingner
The Foundry

Photo: Xinhua/Sipa USA

Photo: Xinhua/Sipa USA

During his trip to Japan, President Obama publicly affirmed long-standing U.S. policy that the bilateral security treaty applies to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands. China claims sovereignty over the islands and, in recent years, has tried to intimidate Japan—much as Beijing has bullied the Philippines in pursuit of its extralegal territorial claims in the South China Sea.

President Obama’s statement was a welcome and proper confirmation of U.S. support for a critical Pacific ally.

During a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama declared, “let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute, and Article 5 [of the bilateral security treaty] covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands.”

While this was the first time Obama publicly affirmed the parameters of the U.S. defense commitment to Japan, it is consistent with the long-standing policies of his predecessors. As Obama pointed out, “this isn’t a ‘red line’ that I’m drawing; it is the standard interpretation over multiple administrations of the terms of the alliance…There’s no shift in position. There’s no “red line” that’s been drawn. We’re simply applying the treaty.”

In 2004, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage stated that the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty “would require any attack on Japan, or the administrative territories under Japanese control, to be seen as an attack on the United States.”

During a 2010 flare-up of tensions between China and Japan over the Senkakus, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated, “we have made it very clear that the [Senkaku] islands are part of our mutual treaty obligations, and the obligation to defend Japan

The Obama administration’s public reassurance to Japan is meant to deter China from behaving aggressively. In recent years, Beijing has used military and economic threats, bombastic language, and enforcement through military bullying to extend its extra-legal claims of sovereignty in the East and South China Seas.

In November 2013, China declared an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands. Beijing threatened to use its military to enforce the ADIZ. Washington condemned this declaration as a provocative act that exacerbated tensions in the region and increased the risks of a military clash.

Beijing is also attempting to divert attention from its own actions by mischaracterizing Japan as a threat to regional security. China’s bellicose actions have fueled regional concern and triggered a greater Japanese willingness confront Chinese expansionism and strengthen its military. This willingness to defend its territory has been mischaracterized as a resurgence of Japan’s 1930s imperial militarism.

Washington should continue to support Abe’s efforts to implement long overdue defense reforms, such as implementing collective self-defense, and the assumption of a larger regional and global security role commensurate with Japan’s size and capabilities.

Whether the Obama administration will maintain a firm stance against China’s sovereignty claims remains to be seen. But for the policy to be effective, a principled message of affirming U.S. support for international law and defending our allies must be backed by resolute U.S. actions, including reversing dangerous defense budget cuts, maintaining a robust forward-deployed U.S. military presence, strengthening and modernizing our alliances, and standing up to Chinese use of intimidation, coercion or force to assert a territorial claim.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Obama Tells Japan’s Abe: ‘Best Sushi I’ve Ever Had’

By Toko Sekiguchi
The Wall Street Journal 

President Barack Obama walks out of Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant next to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after dinner in Tokyo. (Reuters)

President Barack Obama walks out of Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant next to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after dinner in Tokyo. (Reuters)

Entire blocks of Japan’s famed Ginza shopping and entertainment district were closed off Wednesday night, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Barack Obama to what may be Tokyo’s most celebrated sushi restaurant, the Michelin three-starred Sukiyabashi Jiro.

After the 90-minute meal, Mr. Abe quoted the president as saying, “It’s the best sushi I’ve ever had.”

The prime minister, speaking outside the much-ballyhooed restaurant, said the successful sushi dinner vindicated his “cool Japan” policy of promoting Japanese cultural assets such as food.

The president arrived at the tiny restaurant, featured in the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” just 90 minutes after landing in Tokyo. He was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and he was welcomed by Mr. Abe at the entrance.

Japanese officials said that the informal and intimate dinner was designed to promote a “frank exchange of ideas” between the two leaders, who have not developed a particularly close relationship since Mr. Abe took office in December 2012.

Police cordoned off Ginza’s main crossing near the restaurant, redirecting commuters, shoppers, diners and hostesses to underground passages. Above ground, hundreds of curious onlookers patiently stood by, many trying to get a glimpse of the presidential motorcade.

Meals at the restaurant start at around 30,000 yen, or about $300. It’s also known for how short the magical experience lasts. Diners on a major Japanese restaurant review site called Tabelog frequently note that they find themselves finishing the full course in half an hour.

But Sukiyabashi Jiro seems to have made an exception for its V.I.P. guests. The two leaders spent a full hour and a half on their meal, sitting side-by-side at the sushi counter.

“We had no idea until we saw on TV today that they were headed to Sukiyabashi Jiro,” said a would-be diner who had a reservation in an adjacent building. “I guess we’ll just have to wait until Mr. Obama is done with his sushi.”

“Maybe Mr. Abe can stress the importance of protecting Japanese rice over sushi,” said an onlooker who declined to be identified, referring to the contentious trade talks as Japan hopes to protect its agricultural products.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Did Barack, Shinzo get down to sushi or business?

By Reiji Yoshida
Japan Times

U.S. President Barack Obama had his first session with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday in Tokyo, treated at what is often touted as the best-ever sushi bar in Japan: Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo’s Ginza district.

Abe greeted Obama, who rushed straight from Haneda airport in Tokyo, at the entrance to the small sushi bar run by legendary sushi master Jiro Ono.

The restaurant was chosen “because I knew he likes eating Japanese cuisine,” Abe told reporters after the meeting.

According to Abe, Obama told him he was having “the best sushi I’ve ever eaten” although he was born in Hawaii and has had many chances to eat sushi in his life.

A Japanese media report Thursday said that instead of making small talk and savoring the Japanese delicacies, Obama jumped straight into discussions about trade.

The owner of a yakitori restaurant that shares the basement with the exclusive diner told Tokyo Broadcasting System that Obama put his chopsticks down in the middle of the meal.

Yet another media report said Obama ate 14 of the approximately 20 pieces served.

Ono is well known at home and abroad. His small sushi bar in Ginza has been visited by a number of celebrities from around the world.

While the two leaders were dining, part of the main street of the Ginza district was blockaded by police, and thousands of curious onlookers were kept back by fences put up around the block.

When Obama arrived at the sushi bar, Obama called Abe by his first name, “Shinzo,” and Abe responded by saying “How are you?” in English — probably intended to show off a personal closeness between the two leaders.

For a Japanese leader, having a foreign leader use his first name is considered a symbol of closeness.

Thus, Japanese prime ministers often ask foreign leaders, in particular U.S. presidents, to call them by their first name in conversations carried out in English.

After shaking hands and posing for a photo, the two leaders entered the sushi bar. Reporters and photographers were barred from entering and thus were unable to see what was transpiring inside Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Only a small group of close aides were allowed to accompany the two leaders to enjoy the delicacies of the sushi master, namely U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice, Shotaro Yachi, director general of Abe’s National Security Council, and Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Kenichiro Sasae, according to Japanese officials.

Information from AFP-JIJI added

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *