U.S., Japanese Leaders Discuss Security Situation in Asia
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2005 The United States and Japan today urged North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks, and both countries pledged to work more closely to defeat terrorism and ensure peace in Asia.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the U.S. relationship with Japan has never been closer. "I can't think of a time when the relationship has been closer or more constructive, and we value that in the United States and benefit from it," Rumsfeld said at the conclusion of the U.S.-Japan Consultative Talks at the U.S. State Department today. "(We) certainly understand that it remains a key pillar for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and a benefit to the world."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the alliance between the two nations has shown its worth in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the Indian Ocean areas hit by December's tsunami.
The ministers addressed North Korea's announcement that it possessed nuclear weapons and would not return to the Six-Party Talks. The talks which include China, Russia and South Korea in addition to North Korea, Japan and the United States are designed to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.
Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said through a translator that there seems to be no prospect of North Korea returning to the talks. He said that as more time goes by without talks "it only worsens the situation."
Japanese Defense Minister Yoshinuri Ono called nuclear proliferation a "major challenge for the international community, not just a threat" to Asia.
For her part, Rice urged North Korea to try a different path. "There is a path for the North Koreans to a different kind of relationship with the international community," she said. The Six-Party Talks could guarantee security for the country and certainly would end much of the isolation the North Korean leaders have imposed on themselves, Rice added.
The Japanese and American leaders discussed China and its relationship to the region. All praised China for its role in the Six-Party Talks, but all also called on China to be more forthcoming about its military spending and to work for a peaceful resolution in regard to Taiwan. The ministers said the United States and Japan wish to "develop a cooperative relationship with China, welcoming the country to play a responsible and constructive role regionally as well as globally."
"It is correct that the People's Republic of China has been increasing its military capabilities fairly significantly," Rumsfeld said. "Our interest is in working with all the countries of the region in seeing that it is peaceful and stable, and that the relationships are constructive.
"We have, we believe, important relationships with most of the countries in the region that we continue to develop and that continue to evolve," he continued, "and our expectation is that because of our cooperative arrangements and our alliances that there will be a network of relationships that will encourage peace and a stable part of the world there."
In a communique released following the talks, the United States and Japan have agreed to reexamine the defense relationship in light of changes in Japanese policy. Japan has troops on the ground in both Afghanistan and Iraq. They are there in support roles, but can use force if attacked. Deploying the Self-Defense Forces away from Japan was a major change in policy for the nation.
The communique also calls for better Japanese relations with Russia, including resolution of the Northern Territories dispute, which is a leftover of World War II.
Finally, the communique also addressed Japan's interest in the Ballistic Missile Defense Program.