Obama, in first stop of his Asia trip, addressed the thorny issue of a US military base in Okinawa. Despite recent tensions, Obamamania is still strong in Japan.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Barack Obama's first trip to Asia as head of state began with a warm welcome Friday in the highly guarded Japanese capital, where excitement over the president persists despite recent tensions over the two nations' security alliance – in particular the presence of United States military bases in the Japan.
The visit comes against the backdrop of a newly assertive Japanese government, led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which in August ended a half-century of nearly unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party.
Mr. Hatoyama has said that, although the US-Japan alliance remains solid, he wants to put it on a more "equal footing." He has previously called for moving the US military base out of Okinawa – where many of the nearly US 45,000 troops in Japan are stationed. But for now, he has shelved plans to do so.
Smoothing out ties with the new DPJ-led government – and recognizing Japan's stated desire for a more equal partnership with the US – is likely to top Obama's agenda during this trip.
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