DPJ victory threatens US-Japan military deal

Japan and US military agreement could be in doubt. Attack on Somali president leaves 30 dead in Mogadishu. Pakistani brigadier killed in Islamabad. Iran nuclear deal could be agreed by Friday. South Sudan rejects referendum agreement, and more in today's security briefing
Sarah Gallagher
22 October 2009

Traditionally strong military cooperation between the US and Japan faces an unusual challenge after the newly elected DPJ questioned the relocation of the US Futenma air base to Okinawa. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned yesterday that the redeployment from Okinawa of 8000 Marines to Guam would not happen without the Futenma relocation. Both moves were part of the US-Japan 2006 military realignment deal and failure to implement either might leave the entire agreement in doubt. While both sides appeared to be publicly taking a cooperative stance, the Washington Post has reported a more gloomy picture of the US's view of the relationship. The question is posed by the election of the Democratic Party of Japan to power in August this year, who, during their campaign, pledged to reexamine the deal. The relocation of the air base to Okinawa faced strong public opposition, with allegations that the 2006 deal included secret agreements which allowed the US to transport nuclear weapons through Japan.

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The ToD verdict: US forces have remained on Japanese territory since the American victory in the Pacific in 1945 and repeated treaties have sanctioned their presence. Japan is a key partner in the US' military and security strategy in the East Asia region, where American deployments are deemed essential to counterbalance China's growing military and naval capabilities and the continued threat posed by North Korea. The realignment deal was intended to streamline US operations in Japan, appease Japanese citizens by returning occupied territories and to allow a greater role for Japanese forces. The deal was not easily struck and was ten years in the making. To renegotiate now would surely be arduous and the prospect of starting over is the likely basis for Gate's firm stance over the need to follow the realignment roadmap.

Prior to the Japanese elections, the US doubted a change of government would undermine the US-Japan military alliance. The US subsequently appeared to take a relaxed stance to the election of the DPJ and its campaign promises of greater independence from US influence. Soon after the elections a US delegation travelled to Japan, setting the stage for a visit by President Obama which is due to take place in November. However, the US may now be increasingly nervous should the DPJ remain committed to its election pledges. Last month Japan and China held talks on institutionalising an East Asia Community, another potentially controversial pledge of the DPJ campaign that could lock the US out of the region, and some analysts suggest the Japanese are actively seeking an equal relationship with the US. All this could mean that Japan has more of an appetite for renegotiating the realignment, arduous or not. However, Japan's foreign policy in respect of the US remains unclear and it is yet to be seen where the balance of the US Japan relationship will lie.

Thirty killed in Mogadishu fighting

At least thirty people were killed and many more injured in an attack on President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed as he left Somalia for a meeting in Uganda. The president was not hurt in the attack, in which Islamic insurgents reportedly threw mortar bombs at the international airport as the President departed. The rebels then exchanged fire with AU peacekeeping forces and government troops in some of the worst fighting seen in Mogadishu in recent weeks. The violence comes just a day after the chairman of Hizbul Islam, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, claimed that he would not stop fighting until there was an Islamic government in Somalia. Aweys was talking to a group of Somali elders in Mogadishu when he made the claims. He also said that there was a possibility of holding talks with the transitional government, a move championed by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. Hizbul Islam is one of the two main Islamic insurgencies in Somalia, the other being al Shabaab, with whom Hizbul Islam once tried to merge, but the two have recently been involved in bitter fighting over the strategic town of Kismayo.

Brigadier shot and killed in Islamabad

A Pakistani brigadier was shot and killed by gunmen while he travelled in a military vehicle in Islamabad today. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack but it has been described by the Pakistani authorities as an act of terrorism by Islamic insurgents and is likely a response to the South Warziristan offensive. The attack was followed by reports that a bomb had been found and shots had been fired at a courthouse in the city. The reports turned out to be a false alarm, but demonstrate the heightened sense of fear across the country and the expectation of further retaliation against the government offensive.

Draft text on nuclear fuel to Iran to be agreed by Friday

Iran, France, Russia and the US have until Friday to agree a draft text which forms the outcome of three days of talks that ended yesterday at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The text concerns the provision of fuel for an Iranian civilian nuclear research reactor that produces medical radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Mohamed El Baradei, the IAEA director general expressed confidence in the agreement, which was a 'very important confidence building measure.' Whether the agreement will indeed be the first of many steps in resolving the standoff between the West and Iran over its nuclear capabilities or another false dawn is yet to be seen. Iran today denied a potentially groundbreaking rumour, that Iranian and Israeli representatives had conducted secret talks about the possibility of a nuclear free region.

Government of South Sudan reject referendum agreement

Last week's reports that agreement had been reached between North and South Sudan on the terms of the referendum on the secession of the South have been thrown into doubt. The Government of South Sudan yesterday said the terms of the agreement were not acceptable to the GSS or to the SPLM (Sudan People's Liberation Movement), in spite of the fact that the deal was negotiated by GSS vice president, Riek Machar. The GSS objected to the requirement that two-thirds of the population turned out to vote, and are reportedly unhappy with any requirement on voter turnout, stressing that the decision to vote is voluntary. Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, the people of the South have the right to a referendum in 2011 on whether the South should secede from the North. However, while the Khartoum government and the GSS both maintain that they are working within the CPA, they have been unable to reach on the terms of any referendum.

Uncertainty over Karadzic trial

A former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, who stands accused of eleven counts of war crimes, including genocide, in the 1992-1995 Bosnian-Serb war, has said that he will not stand trial as planned next Monday. Karadzic is one of the highest ranking officials to be tried by the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia). Karadzic claims that his defence was not given sufficient time or resources to prepare. The ICTY has said that the trial will go ahead, and the court judges will decide whether Karadzic has provided sufficient reasons for a delay. Karadzic's latest move appears to be part of an ongoing legal strategy to delay proceedings, having submitted nearly 270 motions since his indictment.

Sweden also announced today that an associate of Karadzic, Biljana Plavsic, will be released next week after serving two-thirds of an eleven year sentence. The ICTY has tried 120 people accused of war crimes, but two of the war's most notorious figures, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, still elude capture.

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