US - Japan

Chronology from Jan 2008 to Mar 2008

: Prime Minister Fukuda announces several compromise proposals regarding tax legislation, but they are rejected by the opposition parties.

: Prime Minister Fukuda states in an appearance before the Upper House Budget Committee that he does not intend to revise the Japan-U.S. SOFA.

: Over 6,000 people participate in demonstrations in Okinawa protesting the U.S. military presence there.  They demand the government implement fundamental changes to the Japan-U.S. SOFA, and that the U.S. military presence be reduced.

: A taxi driver is found dead in his cab near Yokosuka Naval Base in Kanagawa Prefecture.  Police find a credit card belonging to a U.S. sailor in the back seat and begin searching for the suspect.

: Assistant Secretary Hill states that a trilateral dialogue among the U.S, Japan, and the ROK could take place before the next round of the Six-Party Talks. 

: Assistant Secretary Hill and Saiki Akitaka meet  and confirm that North Korea must provide a complete and correct declaration of its nuclear programs.

: According to a Kyodo News poll, Prime Minister Fukuda’s public approval rating decreases to 33 percent and his disapproval rating is 50 percent.  As for political parties, 23 percent support the DPJ and 31 percent the favor the LDP.

: A group of Japanese prefectural governors conveys to the central government their request to review the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

: In a government panel on Defense Ministry reform, the government decides to begin work on a full-scale reorganization of the ministry following a series of scandals and accidents.

: U.S. Marine arrested on suspicion of raping a 14 year-old girl is released by Japanese authorities after the girl drops the accusation against him.

: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets with PM Fukuda, Foreign Minister Komura, and Defense Minister Ishiba to discuss North Korea, U.S. support for the abductees, and U.S.-Japan ROK cooperation.  She also expresses her deep regret over the incident of alleged rape.

: PM Fukuda directs Defense Minister Ishiba to conduct an organizational review of the Ministry amid mounting criticism of its handling of a collision between its most advanced naval destroyer and a small fishing boat.

: The MSDF supply vessel Omi resumes its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean after a four-month hiatus to continue the fight against international terrorism in cooperation with other countries.

: Assistant Secretary Hill visits the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and agrees to continue close cooperation for the development of the Six-Party Talks.

:   U.S. Forces Japan imposes tight restrictions on all military personnel, dependents, and Defense Department civilians in Okinawa, and at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Camp Fuji in mainland Japan. Military personnel are restricted from leaving their bases except for official business, work, worship or travel to and from housing, essentially banning troops from off-base bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.

:   An MSDF Aegis-equipped destroyer collides with a fishing boat off the coast of Chiba prefecture, sinking the fishing boat and leaving the crew missing.

: Foreign Minister Komura summons U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer to the Foreign Ministry in response to a case involving the alleged rape of a 14 year-old middle school girl in Okinawa Prefecture. The foreign minister also asks Schieffer to ensure the U.S. government strictly enforces military discipline.
Feb. 14, 2008:  PM Fukuda tells Okinawa Gov. Nakaima Hirokazu in a meeting in Tokyo that he would increase pressure on the U.S. to tighten military discipline. Nakaima conveyed the anger of local citizens and expressed deep concern regarding the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, including the relocation of Futenma Air Station.

: U.S. Marine is arrested on suspicion of raping a junior high school girl in Okinawa Prefecture.

: Assistant Secretary Hill testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that removing North Korea from the state sponsors of terrorism list and progress on the Japanese abductee issue are not directly linked.

:   Prime Minister Fukuda speaks on the occasion of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos and proposes his “Cool Earth Promotion Programme” in order to take initiative as the chair of the G8 Summit in July.

: Amb. Richard Holbrooke delivers a statement from Senator Hillary Clinton in which she called Japan an “indispensable ally,” stressing that in the years ahead, Japan and the U.S. must “work to preserve peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific.”

:   PM Fukuda addresses the Diet and declares that Japan would play a responsible role on global issues like terrorism and global warming. He also promises to advance debate on a permanent dispatch law for the Self-Defense Forces and calls the U.S.-Japan alliance the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy.  As for the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, he promises to decrease the burden on the people and listen to public opinion in Okinawa.

:   In Tokyo, PACOM Commander Adm. Timothy Keating exchanges views with Foreign Minister Komura Masahiko on U.S.-Japan defense cooperation and relations with China.

:   According to a public opinion poll by Nikkei Shimbun, 43 percent supported Fukuda’s decision to pass the new Indian Ocean bill by voting a second time in the Lower House, and 38 percent did not support it.  The approval rating of the Fukuda Cabinet is 42 percent.

: The Replenishment Support Special Measures Bill becomes law, reauthorizing refueling operations in the Indian Ocean in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

:   Former PM Mori Yoshiro of the LDP meets President-elect Lee Myung-bak in Seoul.  Lee and Mori agree on the need for strong cooperation between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea.

:   U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and Sasae Kenichiro, Japan’s top negotiator in the Six-Party Talks, agree to keep requiring North Korea to submit a complete and correct declaration of its nuclear activities after missing the Dec. 31 deadline.

: PM Fukuda holds his first press conference of 2008 and states that Japan would be a world leader in sharing environmental technologies and a more open state with strong connections to the international community.  He also reiterates his commitment to reauthorizing the refueling operations in the Indian Ocean.

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