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U.S. Won't Abandon Asia-Pacific in Force Restructuring

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2004 – The United States may change the exact positioning of its forces in the Asia-Pacific region, but remains committed to helping maintain peace and security in that part of the world, Secretary of State Colin Powell said during a whirlwind trip to Japan, China and South Korea.

"The United States has to transform its forces because the force structure that we've had in Asia, and especially in Europe, was based on a model of a war that might break out that would involve the whole world against the communist empires: China and the Soviet Union," Powell told Japanese reporters in Tokyo Oct. 24.

"That model is gone," he said.

While acknowledging force-structure changes are in the wind, Powell promised that the United States won't turn its back on the region.

"The presence of U.S. troops in the Asia-Pacific region has allowed the nations of the Asian-Pacific region to thrive by providing stability and by providing a counterbalance to any other adventurous regime that might rise," Powell said. "We don't want to change that. I don't think any of the leaders of Japan or the Japanese people would like to see that balance disturbed."

Powell said discussions about global posturing for U.S. troops "have to take place within the strategic framework that it is in everyone's strategic interest for there to be a strong U.S. presence in Asia, and that includes a significant presence in Japan."

While noting that the strategic relationship between the United States and Asia "is as important as ever," Powell called the U.S. presence in Okinawa "a considerable burden." He said the United States and Japan are looking at ways to reduce that burden.

Powell emphasized that the United States has no intention of railroading Japan into missions beyond those with a direct impact on regional security and stability. "Anything that the Japanese forces might do outside of that context has to be a decision made by the Japanese people," he said.

Powell praised Japan's support in the war on terror. "What Japan has been able to do by sending its humanitarian forces out of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to Iraq is evidence" of Japan's growing role on the world stage, he said.

Similarly, he lauded Japan's provision of fuel to anti-terrorism forces in the Indian Ocean, its work on the Proliferation Security Initiative aimed at halting the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, and its hosting a successful donor's conference meeting for Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It is a very complex world out there, and Japan has a role to play in that world, and it will find ways to play that role, as you've done in Iraq," Powell said. "But you will not find the United States coming in to define that role for you or in any other way to suggest this is the way it has to be.

"We know how sensitive you are about this issue, and the United States shares that sensitivity," he said.

Powell acknowledged that the insurgency in Iraq has turned out to be "a more difficult problem" than originally anticipated, but defended the coalition's overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

"One can list errors and mistakes and what did you do right and what did you do wrong," Powell said, when asked by a reporter about mistakes made in Iraq.

"What we did right is that a dictator is no longer there," he said. "We can debate weapons of mass destruction all you care to as a historic matter, but there won't be any in the future, nor will there have to be any concern about such weapons in the future."

Powell said the war in Iraq has freed the Iraqi people from oppression by their government and has set their sites on new freedoms, beginning with the upcoming elections in January.

He said the United States is committed to working through diplomatic channels and to using force only as a last resort. "We don't look for wars. We look for peaceful solutions to problems. But we will not shrink from defending our interests with military force if it becomes necessary," he said.

"And because we are willing to use military force, should it become necessary as a last resort, I think it makes diplomacy more effective."

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Secretary of State Colin Powell

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