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Polls show US, Japan Differ on military's role

By: Michael R. March

Date Posted: 1999-04-24

According to recent polls, many Americans believe the large role undertaken by the US military in Japan is to prevent the country from becoming a threat to the region.

The polls, conducted in both Japan and the United States by Louis Harris and Associates, an American research firm, and the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Tokyo, show there is widespread misunderstanding on both continents when considering what role the U.S. military plays in Japan.

When asked about the US military presence in Japan, where a large majority of its military personnel is stationed, particularly here on Okinawa, 31 percent of Japanese respondents believed it was to safeguard the nation, while 38 percent said it was a part of the United States' worldwide strategy. A major percentage of American respondents said on the other hand US troops stationed here are to prevent the country from becoming a threat to Asian stability.

When asked about the number of military personnel in Japan, more than 60 percent of Japanese respondents said the presence should be reduced. American reaction took an almost 360 degree spin, with 63 percent saying current numbers should be maintained.

Former Ambassador to Thailand, Hirohisa Okazaki, said he fears Japan may create instability in the region if it fails to agree with the United States over upcoming talks about updating Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, according to a report in the Japan Times.

"Asia's stability is proportional to the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance," the Japan Times quoted Okazaki as saying. "Our top priority now is to secure our peace and prosperity," the English-language Japan Times reported.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi is hoping guideline bills clear the Lower House before his scheduled departure for the United States at the end of the month.

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