General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is currently in China after a stop in Japan, during which he talked with Foreign Minister Aso -- and possibly Defense Minister Kyuma, as Steve Clemons wonders, following the rumors surrounding Vice President Cheney's visit -- about a range of technical issues related to alliance cooperation.
On the agenda was the question of the realignment of US forces in Japan, including the removal of 8,000 US Marines from Okinawa to Guam. The debate on last year's agreement on US realignment, in which Japan agreed to pay $6.9 billion towards the Guam relocation, is likely to heat up now, as the Abe Cabinet has just submitted a realignment bill to the lower house of the Diet. The Democratic Party of Japan -- including the Upper House member for whom I work -- has raised questions about whether it's appropriate for Japan to be contributing this sum towards the cost of preparing Guam for a major influx of US forces. Such questions are reasonable, considering Japan's prevailing budgetary difficulties. And of course Japan should demand transparency and accountability about the project to expand existing US Military facilities on Guam to accommodate the new Marine presence that its contributions will be supporting.
Meanwhile, in China Pace has reiterated US (and Japanese) concerns about the lack of transparency in the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Differences no doubt remain, but I am pleased to see the chairman of the Joint Chiefs meeting with his Chinese counterpart -- and discussing the creation of a US-China military hotline, no less.
The delicate ballet that is the US-China-Japan strategic triangle goes on.
UPDATE: The FT reports that the PLA has reciprocated by offering a list of measures to promote greater openness and enhance cooperation between the Chinese and US militaries.