Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US, Japan talk about Taiwan's safety

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her spokesmen were evasive Friday when asked about reports that the US and Japan will announce Saturday that they jointly regard Taiwan as a mutual security concern, a move seen as potentially committing both countries to act in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

The plan was first revealed in the Friday edition of the Washington Post in a report from Tokyo.

The Post report said that in the most significant change to the US-Japan Security Alliance in a decade, "Japan will join the Bush administration in identifying security in the Taiwan Strait as a `common strategic objective.'"

The decision is scheduled to be announced, the report said, after a meeting in Washington of the two countries' foreign and defense ministers -- ? Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Minister of State for Defense Yoshinori Ono.

Rice and Machimura were to hold a half-hour bilateral meeting yesterday morning followed by a meeting of all four officials constituting the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee. It is the first meeting of the consultative organization since Dec. 16, 2002.

Asked Friday about the meeting and the report, Rice said only that the discussion will be about "how we continue to promote peace and security in the region."

"Of course, the cross-straits [sic] issue is an issue of concern in the Asia Pacific," Rice said. "The policy of the US is quite clear. We have a one-China policy we recognize on the basis of the three communiques. We also have responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act."

She also said Washington has cautioned both sides against attempts to change the status quo unilaterally.

"And our efforts to maintain stability in the region count very much on American adherence and that of our allies, of which Japan is certainly an ally, that the cross-straits [sic] problem would be resolved peacefully," Rice said, in response to a reporter's question during a press conference with Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot in the State Department.

She also said that the US and Japan "enjoy very deep and broad relations in an alliance to try and help bring and maintain peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that yesterday's meeting "will have a full and complete discussion of security in the region, as well as US-Japan relations."

"We are not extending the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty," Boucher insisted. "We're having discussions within the scope of that treaty about areas in the region ... and more generally in terms of our interests there."

In terms of individual issues, Boucher said "Taiwan Straits [sic], perhaps, will come up." Pressed about what Japan may do, Boucher retorted, "as far as issues of what exact role they play depends on the Japanese government, and they'll have to answer those."

The Washington Post report quotes Japanese officials as noting that the country's constitution limits the level of assistance that Japan could offer in the event of a US confrontation with China over Taiwan.

However, it says yesterday's joint statement "could help lay the groundwork for the Japanese to extend as much cooperation as they legally can, including logistical support such as transportation and medical rescue operations behind the lines of combat."

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