Obama makes promises to Japan and South Korea

To Japan:

The New York Times reports that while he was in Japan, on Thursday, April 24, 2014:

Obama … declared that the United States was obligated by a security treaty to protect Japan in its confrontation with China over a clump of islands [the Senkaku or Diaoyu islets] in the East China Sea. But he stopped short of siding with Japan in the dispute regarding who has sovereignty over the islands, and carefully calibrated his statement to avoid antagonizing China.

The net result, seen in a news conference in which the leaders referred to each other a bit stiffly as Barack and Shinzo, was an alliance clearly on firmer footing than it was earlier, but still vulnerable to political frailties on each side. […]

The president’s statement about the United States’ obligations toward Japan was important because it was the first time he had explicitly put the disputed islands under American protection, though Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently made the same statement and the policy has been held by successive administrations.

“This is a very important turning point for the United States-Japan alliance because it means the period of drift under President Obama has finally come to an end,” said Yuichi Hosoya, an expert on American-Japanese relations at Keio University in Tokyo. “The fact that this was said by the president will have a huge psychological impact on Japanese officials and people.”

The Chinese government reacted swiftly, saying it was “firmly opposed” to Mr. Obama’s position. More than anything, Mr. Obama appeared eager to defuse tensions over the islands, referring to them as a “rock” and saying they should not be allowed to derail a relationship that could otherwise be productive.

“It would be a profound mistake to continue to see escalation around this issue rather than dialogue and confidence-building measures between Japan and China,” Mr. Obama said.

[Japan’s prime minister] Mr. Abe said he was encouraged by Mr. Obama’s pledge to protect the islands. “On this point,” he said, “I fully trust President Obama.”

To South Korea:

The AP reports that while he was in Seoul, on April 26, 2014:

President Barack Obama warned North Korea on Saturday that the United States “will not hesitate to use our military might” to defend allies, as he sought to showcase U.S. power in the region amid China’s growing influence and Pyongyang’s unpredictable nuclear threats.

Obama’s visit to Seoul comes as North Korea has threatened to conduct its fourth nuclear test, leading Obama to raise the possibility of further sanctions.

The commitment that the United States of America has made to the security of the Republic of Korea only grows stronger in the face of aggression,” Obama said in a speech to some of the 28,000 American service members stationed in South Korea to keep watch on its northern neighbor. “Our alliance does not waiver with each bout of their attention seeking. It just gains the support of the rest of the world.” […]

Obama ridiculed North Korea’s attempt to show force. “Anybody can make threats,” he said. “Anyone can move an army. Anyone can show off a missile. That doesn’t make you strong.”

He said real strength comes from having an open participatory democracy, open markets and a society free to speak out against its government.

“We don’t use our military might to impose these things on others, but we will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our way of life,” Obama said to cheers from the uniformed troops who filled a field house at Yongsan Garrison, headquarters for U.S. forces in South Korea.

Obama’s 10-minute speech followed a rare joint defense briefing with South Korean President Park Geun-hye that focused on efforts to counter the North’s nuclear ambitions.

See also “Pentagon official: U.S. budget will not allow an Asia pivot,” March, 2014.

~StMA

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6 responses to “Obama makes promises to Japan and South Korea

  1. War would be the worst thing for any of the nations. Considering financial burdens and later reparations, war would be complete lunacy.
    North Korea cannot feed their own people but somehow manage to come up with missiles to test and other warfare related nuances. Perhaps it is felt by the leaders in NK that war, would “cull the herd”, and fewer people would require food and other necessities?
    America is not above the mess. Heavy debt can be unloaded by China. Then, what about all of the industrial goods and commerce that would be ruined on both sides. If the BRICS Pact dumps the US Dollar, other nations that trade with BRICS members, will toss the Dollar aside, and that would further have adverse impact.
    No matter who happens to currently be president, it is now, an unenviable position and egos need to be reigned in.

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  2. A. James Gregor, Ph.D. & Professor

    These are interesting developments in the sense that China, in the immediate past, has delivered some gestures that would seem to support the general position assumed by Washington in its controversy with Moscow over the eastern Ukraine. China (from its critical position in the UN Security Council) abstained on the vote advocating sanctions against Russia–when it might have simply taken an adverse position–obstructing U.S. purpose. . Why Beijing chose not to stand with Russia on this issue seems unclear. That Washington would take so emphatic a position on the territorial dispute between China and Japan under the circumstances is a little puzzling. Beijing might have harbored a notion that Washington might have been a trifle more accommodating in view of China’s vote on sanctions against Moscow.

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  3. Obama promises a lot but seldom delivers. He has zero credibility among our potential enemies. For his bluster to be credible, he would need to station a US/Japanese force of at least a company of infantry, a SAM battery and a small radar station in the Senakus. He won’t do that.

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  4. Perhaps Obama will make a show of force by sending 200 JAG officers to Taiwan, 200 gay and lesbian quartermaster corps to Burma and 200 transgender Air Force mechanics to Thailand.

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  5. Thank you StMA for this most interesting post. It is noteworthy that Obama speaks about the importance of being open in relationships with countries, since he has been completely secretive about who he is in his relationship with the American people by paying various attorneys to hide all of his personal records. I question whatever Obama says because of his ardent lack of transparency. Who really knows what he is going to do?

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