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Friday, Nov. 7, 2008

Bilateral ties will remain strong in all aspects: Schieffer


Staff writer

The alliance between Japan and the United States will remain strong regardless of the imminent change in U.S. administrations, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer said Thursday in Tokyo.

While some have speculated that President-elect Barack Obama may maintain the Democrats' tradition of protecting U.S. domestic industry, Schieffer assured that the U.S. will continue to value and nurture all aspects of bilateral ties with Japan.

"Each administration will decide what its trade policy is going to be," Schieffer said, adding Tokyo will be able to maintain close ties with Washington because the two "share so much common ground."

"President Obama is going to understand, as previous Democratic presidents have understood, the importance of this relationship," he said.

Schieffer also rejected concerns that Obama may soften on North Korea's denuclearization process and disregard the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals.

Anyone with two young daughters can't help but be sympathetic to the story of Megumi Yokota, he said in giving reassurances that the U.S. will continue to be supportive of Japan's efforts to recover its abductees.

The Texan ambassador, known as a longtime friend of President George W. Bush, called Tuesday's presidential election a "great day for American history" that gave him a surge of pride in his country. "A lot of people, I would suspect, have a different view of President Bush than I do," he said. "But that is what democracy is all about."

Transition efforts began last summer at the U.S. Embassy in Japan, Schieffer said, and its staff will accelerate the process so there will be a "seamless transition" to the next administration in January.

The ambassador had previously said he would end his term concurrently with the end of Bush's term in January.

Hope, resignation

NAHA , Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Barack Obama's victory in the U.S. presidential election Wednesday received a mixed reaction from activists and authorities in regions that host U.S. military facilities, with some expressing hope for improvement and others seeing little possibility of change.

In Okinawa, hopes were tinged with an air of resignation, as some felt Obama would have his hands full with other issues and that reducing the prefecture's burden in hosting U.S. military facilities would not be high on his agenda.

Hiroshi Ashitomi, a representative of a group opposing helicopter bases, said he will be watching whether the U.S. military realignment devised by a Republican administration will change under Obama.



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