U.S-Japan United Against North Korean Threats
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
TOKYO, Jun. 3, 2003 The United States and Japan are united to prevent destabilization in East Asia caused by North Korea's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons and more powerful ballistic missiles, two senior U.S. officials told reporters here June 3.
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz met with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard H. Baker Jr. at the ambassador's residence near the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Wolfowitz had arrived in Tokyo June 2 after meeting with South Korean officials in the capital city of Seoul.
During a question-and-answer session with the traveling press, Wolfowitz remarked to reporters that the defense relationship between the United States and Japan today "is excellent."
Quoting a recent Japanese poll, Wolfowitz noted that 66 percent of respondents believe U.S. military bases in Japan are needed for regional security up 10 percentage points from last year.
And, Wolfowitz pointed out, 84 percent of Japanese in the poll support reconstruction efforts in post-Saddam Iraq.
Commenting on the ongoing posture review of American military forces deployed around the world and the United States, Wolfowitz noted that "modest adjustments" would likely be made in the U.S. force structure in Japan.
Japan was the last stop on the deputy defense secretary's six-day East Asia trip where he discussed mutual defense issues with Singaporean, South Korean and Japanese leaders.
In Singapore on May 31, Wolfowitz noted there's no greater threat to peace and stability facing Asian - and other -- nations today than North Korea's nuclear program.
And U.S. defense officials believe North Korea is also developing more powerful ballistic missiles which could be used to carry nuclear, biological or chemical payloads.
Wolfowitz acknowledged that North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs present a regional security challenge to South Korea, Japan and other East Asian countries.
And U.S. officials believe that North Korea -- which is experiencing chronic food and fuel shortages -- wants to leverage the nuclear weapons/ballistic missile issues to obtain concessions from the international community.
The often-bellicose North Koreans have also in recent years threatened to bombard Seoul using myriad artillery pieces and rockets arrayed along the border in the north.
And now North Korea apparently possesses a nuclear capability that threatens peace and stability in the East Asia region, Baker and Wolfowitz pointed out to reporters.
North Korean artillery tubes aimed at Seoul represents a threat to the South Korean people, Baker noted. And the Japanese, he asserted, are very concerned about North Korea's ballistic missile capability, and potential linkage to weapons of mass destruction including nuclear.
Baker recalled that Tokyo was victim to a 1995 Sarin attack on its subway system by domestic terrorists. And in 1998, he continued, the North Koreans fired a Taepo Dong 1 ballistic missile over Japan.
"Japan is aware of the fact that it lives in a very dangerous neighborhood," Baker pointed out, "and that it must take account of that for its own survival and defense."
However, Baker asserted, Japan can depend on its long- standing alliance and friendship with the United States in meeting any regional security threats presented by North Korea.
"Coordination between Japan and the United States on defense measures has been extraordinary and it continues to be," Baker emphasized.
In his May 31 remarks to attendees of the second annual Asia Security Conference in Singapore, Wolfowitz observed that multilateral cooperation holds "important promise for enabling countries" across East Asia "to resolve problems peacefully."
And, Wolfowitz asserted at the conference, "No where is that challenge greater than in confronting the problem posed by North Korea's nuclear program."
In fact, the United States, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, Wolfowitz noted frequently during his trip, all strongly oppose nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
Underlying the relationship between Japan and the United States "is recognition of the fact that Japan is a great sovereign nation," Ambassador Baker remarked, noting that the Japanese "are our allies, but they are also our friends."
Consequently, Baker continued, the U.S.-Japanese relationship "implies, then, a high level of consultation on how best to provide for our respective best interests."