Sat, November 14, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > US president Obama's first Asia tour

Obama looks to strengthen Asia ties, reaffirms Japan alliance

2009-11-14 06:10:49 GMT2009-11-14 14:10:49 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

TOKYO, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said in an Asian policy speech in Tokyo on Saturday that United States looks to strengthen old alliances and build new partnerships with the nations of the region to cope with challenges of the 21st century.

"I want everyone to know, and I want everybody in America to know, that we have a stake in the future of this region, because what happens here has a direct effect on our lives at home," Obama said.

He spoke of relations with old allies in the Asia region, including the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Australia and Thailand, and said: "These alliances continue to provide the bedrock of security and stability that has allowed the nations and peoples of this region to pursue opportunity and prosperity."

"Our commitment to Asia's security is unshakable, and it can be seen throughout the region."

He said the U.S. does not seek to contain China and the rise of a strong and prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations.

The president offered to help the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) if it returns to the six-party talks; upholds previous commitments, including a return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and the full and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

He also spoke of Myanmar, saying that the United States is now working to secure democratic reforms in that nation. "We support a Burma that is unified, peaceful, prosperous and democratic. And as Burma moves in that direction, a better relationship with the United States will be possible," he said.

He added that better relations between the two nations would be conditional and urged the unconditional release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, an end to conflicts with minority groups and a genuine dialogue between the government and the opposition.

The president also said that he expects the United States to be involved in any integration projects that Asia embarks on. "We also believe that the growth of multilateral organizations can advance the security and prosperity of the region," he said. "I know that the United States has been disengaged from many of these organizations in recent years, so let me be clear: those days have passed."

"As an Asia-Pacific nation the United States expects to be involved in the discussions that shape the future of this region and top participate fully in appropriate organizations as they are established and evolve," he added.

As the half century of U.S. alliance with Japan approaches, Obama said the partnership is as strong as ever and that he hopes it becomes stronger.

"In two months our alliance will mark its 50th anniversary. In the half century the alliance has become a foundation for security and prosperity," the president said. "The first foreign leader I welcomed to the White House was the prime minister of Japan."

"Above all, our alliance has endured because it reflects our common belief in the right to choose our own leaders and follow our dreams," said the U.S. president, speaking of his nation's partnership with Japan.

"We have agreed to deepen our alliance. We've agreed to move expeditiously through a joint working group to implement the agreement that our two governments reached on restructuring U.S. forces in Okinawa," Obama said.

He was referring to a group that the two nations are to set up to deal with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) agreed upon by the former governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP in Japan) and the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush. Under that agreement, some 8,000 U.S. troops are to remain in Okinawa after 2012, and the rest moved to Guam, with the expenses in part paid for by Japan. The governing Democratic Party of Japan has expressed some opposition to that agreement.

The president also praised Japan for its "assistance to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, most recently through its remarkable commitments to providing additional commitments to international developments there." Japan has just committed a maximum of 5 billion dollars in aid to that region for redevelopment over the next five years.

The U.S. president is in Japan on the first leg of a nine-day tour of Asia that is seen as one of the most important of his presidency so far, with topics such as the new government in Japan, the growth of China and the future of the global economy on the agenda.

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