Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Japan, US share `concern' over China

STRATEGIC MEET Japanese officials met with their counterparts in the US to discuss, among other things, China's military expansion and cross-strait stability

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

Senior Japanese officials, in meetings yesterday, plan to assure their American counterparts that Japan shares a common concern about the future security of Taiwan, administration officials and a foreign diplomat said Friday.

While Japan is not expected to make specific offers of military or logistical aid in the event China attacks Taiwan, officials said, Japan is increasingly concerned about the growing political and military might of China.

With its new assurance, officials said, Japan is moving closer to the US point of view that the status quo between China and Taiwan should be maintained.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking to reporters on Friday, said the US and Japan shared the goal of maintaining peace between China and Taiwan.

"The United States and Japan enjoy very deep and broad relations in an alliance to try and help bring and maintain peace and stability" in the region, she said.

She and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were to meet with the Japanese foreign minister, Nobutaka Machimura, and the Defense Agency director-general, Yoshinori Ono, yesterday. The primary topic is expected to be efforts to coax North Korea to return to talks on ending its nuclear weapons program.

But an administration official said the US and Japan would also issue a joint statement confirming a "common strategic direction" on policies toward Taiwan, China and other regional issues. On Taiwan, the statement will "encourage the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan Straits dialogue," the administration official said. This would be the first time that Japan has joined the US in voicing public concern over China's growing military buildup in the area.

A senior foreign diplomat said that this has been Japan's policy for many years, even though it has not been stated in a public manner. Japan's National Defense Program Outline, a policy document adopted by the government last December, says that in light of the "uncertainty" that remains "in the cross-Taiwan Strait relations," and China's growing military prowess, the "close cooperative relationship between Japan and the United States" continues "to play an important role for the security of Japan."

The US and Japan maintain complex and conflicted relationships with the Chinese. Both have valuable economic relationships with China. Last year, China replaced the US as Japan's largest trading partner. China is an important trading partner for the US, too. On Friday, the State Department announced that the Export-Import Bank of the US had made a preliminary commitment to loan China US$5 billion to build four nuclear power plants in the Zhejiang and Yangjiang Provinces.

At the same time, however, the US has had angry exchanges with China in the last few days. On Wednesday, Porter Goss, the head of the CIA, issued a stern warning about China's growing military prowess.

"Beijing's military modernization and buildup could tilt the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee, adding: "Improved Chinese capabilities threaten US forces in the region."

On Thursday, Rumsfeld said the US was concerned about the expansion of the Chinese navy.

In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in a statement on Friday, angrily denounced those remarks, saying, "The United States has severely interfered with Chinese internal affairs and sent a false signal to the advocates of Taiwan independence."

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