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U.S.-Japan Security Arrangements Remain Vital

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO, Nov. 15, 2003 – The security relationship between the United States and Japan is just as vital today as it was during the Cold War and immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Japan's chief defense official said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, right, and Minister of State for Defense Shigeru Ishiba speak to reporters during a joint press conference at the Japan Defense Agency in Tokyo Nov. 15. Rumsfeld was traveling to Guam, Japan and South Korea to meet with U.S. military forces and the local military and civilian leadership. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"The importance of U.S.-Japan security arrangements have not changed at all," Japan's minister of state for defense, Shigeru Ishiba, said through a translator at a joint press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld was in complete agreement. "It is quite true that (the security agreement) was fashioned in the last century and we're living in a new security environment," the secretary said during the press conference, which was held at the headquarters of the Japanese Defense Agency.

"But within that agreement is ample flexibility for us to be able to be arranged going into this new century in ways that will allow us to cooperate and deal with the 21st century threats," he continued.

Ishiba indicated that Japan still looks to the United States for protection from missile attacks. Rumsfeld agreed there is a threat of ballistic missile attack, and added that other threats, such as cyber warfare, might emerge in the future.

"There is no doubt in my mind but that the very solid cooperative relationship underpinned by the security agreement with Japan will enable us to adjust and evolve our relationship in ways that enable us to do just as successfully in the future those deterrent and defense capabilities that we've done in the past," Rumsfeld said.

Noting that the United States has made no recent agreements with North Korea, Rumsfeld assured his Japanese counterpart the United States would enter into no agreement that could jeopardize America's commitment to defend Japan from outside attacks.

Ishiba expressed trust in the United States and said Japan is not worried about any such potential conflict of interest. The United States' pledge to protect Japan and any potential security discussions with North Korea are separate issues, he said.

He added that should Japan be attacked, the United States "will have no change in its intention to work together with Japan to defend our nation."

He spoke briefly about Japan's decision to delay sending Japanese Self-Defense Force troops to Iraq. Japanese officials had agreed to send a small military force to Japan in a noncombat capacity. Government leaders are now concerned that terrorism has made it impossible to distinguish between combat and noncombat locations. Rumsfeld repeated his frequent assertion that sovereign governments need to do what they believe is right for their people.

"I do believe each country needs to think through these issues and make judgments that they think are appropriate in their circumstance and their perspective," the secretary said at the press conference. "And we're confident that our friends here in Japan will make decisions that are appropriate for them, and that's what we want them to do."

Ishiba said Japan is committed to rehabilitating Iraq and will be closely monitoring the security situation in the country. "We will closely watch the situation in the local area," he said. "We would like to make a prudent and appropriate decision (on sending Japanese troops to Irag)."

Rumsfeld is on a weeklong visit to Asian countries. He visited U.S. service members in Guam before traveling to Tokyo, where he has met with several government leaders, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The secretary also visited U.S. sailors aboard the USS Blue Ridge in Yokosuka, and airmen at Yokota Air Base. Next, Rumsfeld will travel to U.S. facilities in Okinawa, Japan, and then on to South Korea to meet with that country's officials and U.S. troops.

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