The White House said Sunday it expected a “strong alliance” with Japan’s incoming center-left government, after voters ended a half-century of nearly unbroken rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party.
President Barack Obama’s administration hopes to hold early consultations with the next government in Tokyo on a range of issues including the ongoing stand-off with nuclear-armed North Korea, a State Department official said.
The White House described the vote in Japan as a “historic election in one of the world’s leading democracies.”
“We are confident that the strong US-Japan alliance and the close partnership between our two countries will continue to flourish under the leadership of the next government in Tokyo,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
Obama “looks forward to working closely with the new Japanese prime minister on a broad range of global, regional and bilateral issues,” he said.
Yukio Hatoyama, a US-educated engineer and scion of a top political dynasty, is virtually certain to be the next prime minister after his Democratic Party of Japan won an overwhelming victory in parliamentary elections.
While in opposition, the party called for a more “equal” partnership with the United States.
Some party members are pushing for a scaling down of the 47,000-strong US troop presence in Japan, which has been officially pacifist since defeat in World War II.
But Hatoyama, who had invoked Obama’s own landmark election on the campaign trail, also shares some common causes with the Democratic US administration including pushing for stronger action to fight global warming.
The State Department cited climate change as an area for cooperation with the new Japanese government.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believes “the US-Japan alliance is strong and remains a cornerstone of peace and security in East Asia,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.
“We will work closely with the new Japanese government in moving toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, addressing the threat of climate change and increasing the availability of renewable energy, bringing stability to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and addressing international humanitarian and health issues,” Kelly said in a statement.
“These are but a few of the issues confronting this generation of Japanese and American leaders,” he said.
Obama invited Japan’s outgoing prime minister Taro Aso as his first foreign guest at the White House in February, part of an administration effort to assure Japan of its role as the foremost US ally in Asia.
Japanese leaders are often sensitive about perceived slights as the United States pursues a broader relationship with its giant neighbor China.