For decades, Japan has been striving to get back a group of four northern islands seized by the Soviet Union in the closing days of World War II. Tokyo has been offering economic cooperation as an incentive for Moscow to return to Japan the chain of islands off Hokkaido. But years of these and other diplomatic efforts have achieved nothing.
To break the impasse surrounding this territorial dispute — which has prevented Japan and Russia from signing a formal peace treaty — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided on a drastic change of tack. But his “new approach” has as much to do with China as with recovering the islands.
During his three-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian resort town of Sochi on May 6, Abe proposed that the two countries start fresh talks based on a “new approach.” During the approximately 35-minute tete-a-tete, Putin agreed to give the proposal a try, according to Japanese government sources.
While neither Tokyo nor Moscow has offered any clue as to what this approach will entail, government sources have said it is intended to be a radical departure from the way Japan has been grappling with the territorial dispute.
The geopolitical landscape in Asia offers many opportunities for security cooperation between Japan and Russia. Under Abe’s new approach, Tokyo and Moscow would first focus on building mutual trust through such cooperation. Once these efforts have improved and strengthened bilateral ties, the leaders of the two countries would be able to make the tough political decisions needed to settle the dispute.
The U.S. has lifted its 41-year-old arms embargo on Vietnam, President Barack Obama announced Monday. The move marks a significant shift in his foreign policy amid China’s growing military might.
Obama announced the decision at a joint press conference following a meeting with Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of Vietnam’s Communist Party. “At this stage both sides have developed a level of trust and cooperation,” Obama said.
The U.S. sees a growing need to work with Vietnam to counter China’s increasing military presence in the South China Sea. The decision, along with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, is expected to help deepen the countries’ diplomatic cooperation.
Vietnam and China remain at odds over territorial claims in the South China Sea. To keep Beijing in check, the U.S. wants to reinforce defense cooperation with Vietnam, as well as with the Philippines, and removing the ban on weapons exports had been seen as a prerequisite for that.
Washington has prohibited weapons sales to Hanoi since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. In October 2014, the U.S. eased the ban to allow sales of defense equipment Vietnam needs for maritime security, but the ban on lethal weapons exports remained.
This marks Obama’s first visit to the Southeast Asian country. He is the third U.S. leader to travel to the former enemy state, following Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech to the Vietnamese public Tuesday
American media has repeatedly likened GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump to France’s far-right Front-National party leader, and frontrunner in polling for the French 2017 presidential election, Marine Le Pen and while the forthright French politician has not explicitly named a “preferable” candidate for US president, her comments today suggest it is not Hillary Clinton. Stating that the “EU is in the brink of collapse,” as two of its main ‘pillars’ are “crumbling” despite the billions of euros spent on keeping the structure from falling, Le Pen’s gravest fear is Hillary Clinton winning the White House because it would constitute “a danger for the world peace,” as she would continue to drag Europe into her”destructive policy” of conflicts.
Under blue skies and surrounded by blue water, the scene at Pearl Harbor in early May was tropical and serene — so serene that it was hard to believe Japan and the U.S. fought a fierce battle here nearly 75 years ago.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was attacked and sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy. The ship still lies on the seabed, along with the remains of its crew. The U.S. abandoned efforts to raise the ship and has built a memorial on the water where it went down.
The ferry to the USS Arizona Memorial was mostly filled with older white men, who appeared to be veterans, and their family members. A man named James, who, ironically, comes from the state of Arizona, said that his father-in-law died in the attack but that he bears no grudge against Japan.
No sitting Japanese prime minister has ever visited the memorial. In 2011, then-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii but stayed away from Pearl Harbor. Chris, a guide at the Arizona Memorial, said many Japanese veterans come to offer flowers. He said it would not mean much to him to have Japanese politicians who do not know much about the time visit the memorial.
On May 10, the Japanese and U.S. governments said U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima on May 27. He will be the first sitting American president to visit the city devastated by the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945. He will make the historic visit on the sidelines of a Group of Seven summit to be held in Ise-Shima, in western Japan.
U.S. policymakers reacted with alarm in mid-April as word spread that China had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile that is reportedly capable of hitting almost the entire country with multiple warheads.
Although China did not display the Dongfeng-41 long-range missile at a military parade in September 2015, it has indirectly acknowledged the recent launch of the ICBM. The test took place as U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was visiting a U.S. aircraft carrier sailing in the South China Sea.
On April 20, following the missile test, Chinese President Xi Jinping, donning camouflage, inspected the Central Military Commission’s joint battle command center in Beijing and ordered the creation of an organization “capable of winning wars.” The adversary he appears to have in mind is the U.S.
Xi hopes to inspire patriotism among Chinese, stressing the need for a “great revival of the Chinese nation.” Externally, under his leadership, China has taken on the role of Asian superpower, stressing its desire for friendly relations and economic cooperation with other countries.
But some of its neighbors see its nationalism and military muscle flexing as arrogant disregard for international law. China is building artificial islands on reefs and atolls in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, features it calls its “inherent territory.” It is deploying jet fighters, radars and other military equipment to cement its claims. Chinese activities in the area — flashing powerful lights at a Philippine military plane and ordering it to leave the area, for example — are threatening the principle of freedom of navigation.