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Incoming Japanese Prime Minister Meets With US Ambassador

By Akiko Fujita
03 September 2009

The United States' ambassador to Japan says he is looking forward to working with Japan's new prime minister. John Roos's comment comes as concerns grow about the U.S. Japan relationship.

The first meeting between the incoming Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, and the United States' ambassador to Japan came just four days after the country's historic election.

The leader of the Democratic Party of Japan says he has spoken to President Barack Obama by phone. He says the president was pleased that Democrats in both countries had become the symbol for change.

Despite that conversation, there are concerns on both sides of the Pacific over the state of U.S.-Japan relations. The Democrat Party of Japan has pledged to strengthen cooperation with Asian countries such as China, instead of relying primarily on the U.S. partnership.

On Sunday, Mr. Hatoyama led the DPJ to an overwhelming victory over the Liberal Democratic Party, which has governed Japan for more than 50 years. The ousted LDP has long been a staunch ally of the United States and was seen as setting Japanese foreign policy based on Washington's desires.

In an essay published in American newspapers, Mr. Hatoyama criticized what he called "U.S.-led globalization and market fundamentalism."

A day after his party's historic victory, Mr. Hatoyama said his comments had been "distorted in translation."

In his meeting with Mr. Hatoyama Thursday, Ambassador John Roos tried to calm fears on both sides.

"We spent a lot of time talking about trying to further enhance that relationship that President Obama is very much looking forward to working with the incoming prime minister," the ambassador said.

Mr. Hatoyama's party, however, is expected to move to end or cut back Japan's mission to refuel ships serving in the effort to stabilize Afghanistan. And there have been indications that the new government will want to re-open recently ended negotiations on the status of U.S. military bases in Japan, something Washington has said it will not do.

Despite the rhetoric, many political analysts have said that they do not expect a big change in Japanese policy toward the U.S. Mr. Hatoyama is expected to meet with President Obama at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh and the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

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