Sat, Feb 19, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US, Japan to beef up security alliance, citing Taiwan Strait

AGENCIES , Washington

Japan and the US will declare in a joint agreement tomorrow that security in the Taiwan Strait is a "common strategic objective," The Washington Post said yesterday, citing a draft of the document it obtained.

The agreement will be announced after the US Secretaries of State, Condoleezza Rice, and of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, meet their Japanese counterparts in Washington today, the daily said in its article datelined in Tokyo.

"This is the first time that Japan has made its stance clear; in the past, Japan has been very indirect on the Taiwan issue," said Koh Se-kai, Taiwan's special representative to Japan. "We're relieved that Japan has become more assertive."

There was no immediate reaction from China.

The agreement to be announced tomorrow declaring security in the Taiwan Strait as a "common strategic objective" of Washington and Tokyo is the most significant alteration since 1996 of the US-Japanese Security Alliance, the daily said.

"It would be wrong for us to send a signal to China that the United States and Japan will watch and tolerate China's military invasion of Taiwan," said Shinzo Abe, the acting secretary general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who is widely considered a likely successor to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"If the situation surrounding Japan threatens our security, Japan can provide US forces with support," he added.

"We consider China a friendly country, but it is also unpredictable," an unidentified senior Japanese government official was quoted as saying in The Washington Post.

"If it takes aggressive action, Japan cannot just stand by and watch," he added.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday welcomed the expected agreement.

"Although the MND hasn't received any information about such an agreement from the US or Japan, the MND welcomes any force which could stabilize the Taiwan Strait, " ministry spokesman Rear Admiral Liou Chih-chien (劉志堅) said.

Liou said that if the US and Japan really see security in the Taiwan Strait as a "common strategic objective," it would enhance Taiwan's determination to defend and deter a military attack from China.

Today's US-Japan talks are a necessary prelude to decisions on how to realign the nearly 50,000 US forces in Japan, part of a global transformation of the US military to cope with new threats such as terrorism.

Japan is leaning toward a bigger role as a strategic hub from which US forces can respond to threats in an "arc of instability" from the Middle East to the Koreas, a shift seen by many experts as an expansion of the alliance.

Both Washington and Tokyo are clearly eyeing Beijing's military buildup askance.

"Beijing's military modernization and military buildup is tilting the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait," CIA Director Porter Goss told a Senate panel on Wednesday. "Chinese capabilities threaten US forces in the region."

China quickly denounced the CIA assessment, saying the remarks sent the wrong signal to Taiwan.

Japan has also become increasingly outspoken in expressing its concerns about China's military modernization.

additional reporting by Rich Chang

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