US and Brazilian defense chiefs on Monday signed a military cooperation agreement designed to bolster security ties, despite strain over Iran and a fighter jet contract.
The accord would promote collaboration in military research and development, training, joint exercises, and commercial projects, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
“The agreement is a formal acknowledgement of the many security interests and values we share as the two most populous democracies in the Americas,” Gates told a news conference with his Brazilian counterpart, Nelson Jobim.
US and Brazilian leaders have disagreed over diplomatic strategy on Iran, with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva warning against piling pressure on Tehran through fresh sanctions.
Although Gates spoke of cooperation between the countries’ defense industries, the deal comes amid expectations US aviation giant Boeing will lose out on a major contract to supply fighter jets to Brazil.
France’s Rafale made by Dassault is seen as the front-runner against Sweden’s Gripen NG by Saab and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, after Lula expressed his preference for the Rafale.
Jobim said the defense agreement “will allow us to strengthen our relationship.”
Gates also praised Brazil’s contribution to the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, saying it “ably took the lead in the UN forces’ relief and recovery efforts” after the January 12 earthquake.
earlier related report
Japan PM hopes to end US base row soon
Washington (AFP) April 13, 2010 – Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has promised to resolve a row soon on a US military base as he was left conspicuously absent from President Barack Obama’s meeting list at a summit.
The Japanese leader pledged a new initiative to ensure nuclear security — the theme of Obama’s 47-nation summit in Washington — and met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in the latest effort to improve ties between the Asian economic powers.
But Hatoyama had no formal meeting scheduled with Obama, who met a slew of leaders of smaller countries. Hatoyama said he spoke with Obama informally at a dinner Monday about a dispute on the relocation of the Futenma air base.
“I told him we will reach a conclusion by the end of May,” Hatoyama later told reporters, repeating his earlier time-frame.
“I said that it is necessary to reduce the burden on Okinawa for the sake of the development of the Japan-US alliance,” he said.
Hatoyama’s center-left coalition swept the long-ruling conservatives out of power in August and launched a review of a 2006 plan on the relocation of the Futenma air base.
The Obama administration has stood behind the original plan but promised to consider any counter-proposals. However, some US officials have privately voiced exasperation at what they see as indecisiveness by Japan.
Hatoyama’s domestic opponents have also gone on the attack, contributing to a steep fall in his government’s popularity.
Hatoyama’s advisers have tried to play down the lack of meeting with Obama, pointing out that the premier was one of the few leaders to deliver a speech at the summit dinner.
The Japanese leader pledged to work for nuclear abolition — a principle both for Obama and for Japan, where memories remain vivid of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“Japan believes it is her moral responsibility to take the non-nuclear path as the only country to have suffered from atomic bombings,” Hatoyama said, according to a prepared statement.
He pledged five million dollars to help the International Atomic Energy Agency strengthen protection of nuclear material in Kazakhstan, on top of 1.1 million dollars already committed this year for the UN nuclear watchdog.
Despite Japan’s official pacifism and opposition to nuclear weapons, it relies by treaty on the United States which stations some 47,000 troops in the country.
The United States set up the Futenma base in Okinawa in 1945 as it took the island in one of World War II’s bloodiest battles.
Since then, the sprawling city of Ginowan has developed around the base, raising concerns among residents about noise and accidents.
Under the plan agreed in 2006, Futenma’s facilities would be shifted to reclaimed land on a quiet stretch of the subtropical island and some 8,000 Marines would leave Okinawa for the US territory of Guam.
Hatoyama’s left-leaning coalition partners strongly oppose the plan and want Futenma out of Okinawa entirely.
Despite the uneasy relations with the United States, Hatoyama has pursued closer cooperation with China with which Japan has historically had tense ties.
Hatoyama and Hu pledged to get back on track on an agreement by the two countries to jointly develop a gas field near disputed islands, officials said.
Japan and China, two of the world’s biggest energy importers, struck a deal in 2008 but it has remained just on paper, amid charges in the Japanese press that Beijing has violated it.
Hu told Hatoyama in the meeting that “China’s commitment to the June 2008 agreement remains firm and unchanged,” Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama told reporters.
However, as the leaders spoke, Japan said that it observed the largest flotilla yet of Chinese warships near its southern islands.
The Japanese defense ministry said it has told China that it considered the maneuver of a helicopter during the exercise “dangerous.”