Noda and Obama
Noda and Obama Reuters

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner prepare to visit China to discuss security and economic matters, the Obama administration firmed up its regional ties with other Pacific nations to show China that increased assertiveness would only succeed in raising a coalition to balance her..

On Monday, following summit talks between President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda, the two sides issued a joint statement entitled: A Shared Vision for the Future. The statement had a number of key paragraphs.

"The U.S.-Japan Alliance is the cornerstone of peace, security, and stability in the Asia-Pacific region." These are fairly strong words and seemed to prioritize relations with Japan over relations with China, and identified Japan, with its problematic history in the region, as a force for peace. The strength of the alliance could be explained by common core values.

Japan and the United States share a commitment to democracy, the rule of law, open societies, human rights, human security, and free and open markets; these values guide us in our joint efforts to address the global challenges of our time.

China does not yet share these values, and therefore Sino-American  ties are not as robust. The alliances, while intended to foster peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, need a military dimension.

We will pursue our respective commitments, including the development of Japan's dynamic defense force under the 2010 National Defense Program Guidelines, and the U.S. strategic rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific with its efforts to achieve a more geographically distributed and operationally resilient force posture in the region

Japan's armed forces used to be called the Self-Defense Forces and were limited to operating only in defense of Japan. This was done after WWII to allay fears in the neighborhood about the recrudescence of Japanese militarism.

Now it will have "a dynamic defense force" that is going to be further developed and equipped, including top-of-the-line American aircraft. Japan is on the way to full rearmament, thus reducing the burden on the US.

The two countries pledged to work within regional organizations "that are open, inclusive, and support internationally accepted rules and norms, including through forums such as the East Asia Summit (EAS) and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation)." This clause is an oblique way of saying that the US and Japan supported efforts to balance China by using multilateral initiatives, rather than allowing China to go one-on-one with countries with which it has a dispute.

A clause with domestic implications for both countries pledged cooperation in the development of clean, renewable energy and addressed "the global impact of climate change."

The United States, prior to talks in China, also sought to reassure the Philippines, engaged in a four-week standoff with China over a territorial dispute. Secretary Clinton promised to "remain in close contact with our ally, the Philippines." Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also held talks with their Philippine counterparts.

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