An expert on Northeast Asian political and security issues at the East-West Center said he doesn’t expect any bombshell announcements by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on a stopover Wednesday and Thursday in Hawaii.
Clinton is expected to arrive at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam tomorrow afternoon for bilateral talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara. Adm. Robert Willard, head of U.S. Pacific Command, also will take part in the talks at the Kahala Hotel and Resort.
Topics of discussion will include the Japanese-American alliance, the role of U.S. forces in Japan, and Clinton’s overall Pacific strategy, officials said.
Clinton also will deliver a “major policy speech” on the Pacific on Thursday, the State Department said. The 8:30 a.m. speech at the Kahala Hotel is by invitation only, but will be streamed live at EastWestCenter.org.
Clinton will head to Vietnam on Friday and also will visit Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia.
Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center, said a realignment plan to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a new location on Okinawa is at a stalemate.
“I don’t know that there is a lot that those two (Clinton and Maehara) can settle through talks,” Roy said.
“I suppose at a minimum they can work toward some kind of a joint statement reaffirming the importance of the (Japan-U.S.) alliance,” Roy added.
Roy believes any such statement would have to touch on the deterioration to U.S. and Japan relations that came with disagreement over the Futenma move. The U.S. base is unpopular with many Okinawans.
“Another item that may or may not get mentioned — and it would be interesting to look for — is if there is any reference to China, the environment in the region having changed as a result of more assertive Chinese behavior in 2010,” Roy said.
China’s assertiveness in the Yellow Sea and South China Sea has included run-ins with Japan and the U.S. Navy. China objected to U.S. and South Korean exercises in the Yellow Sea and claimed sovereignty over the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands.
One of the consequences of the Chinese activity is increased security cooperation with the U.S. among some neighbor nations, Japan included.
The U.S. and Japan also are unhappy with the way China has handled North Korea issues, particularly after North Korea was found by an international panel to have sunk a South Korean warship with a torpedo in March, killing 46 sailors, Roy said.
“There certainly are things for them to talk about, but the visit in and of itself (and talks by Clinton and Maehara), even if they don’t make any substantial progress on real issues, the symbolism of the visit is important,” Roy said.