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US, Japan Vow to Strengthen Security, Defense Cooperation

Senior US and Japanese officials vowed on Saturday to strengthen security and defense cooperation, promising to intensify consultations on realignment of US force structure in Japan.

"I can't think of a time when the relationship has been closer or more constructive," US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at a news conference after talks he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held with their Japanese counterparts, Japanese Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono and Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura.

A joint statement issued after the so-called "two plus two" talks described an "excellent state of cooperative relations" between the two countries "on a broad array of security, political, and economic issues."

The officials "underscored the need to continue examining the roles, missions, and capabilities of Japan's Self Defense Forces and the US Armed Forces required to respond effectively to diverse challenges in a well-coordinated manner," the statement said.

"The Ministers also emphasized the importance of enhancing interoperability between US and Japanese forces," it said.

The officials discussed the planned realignment of the nearly 50,000 US forces in Japan, part of a global repositioning of US troops. "Both sides confirmed their commitment to maintaining deterrence and capabilities of US forces in Japan while reducing the burden on local communities," the statement said.

The realignment was designed to allow the US forces to respond swiftly to threats in the Asian and Middle East region.

The two sides listed the Taiwan issue as one of the "common strategic objectives" for the first time.

In their statement, the officials said one of the common strategic objectives in Asia was to "develop a cooperative relationship with China, welcoming the country to play a responsible and constructive role regionally as well as globally."

On the Taiwan issue, it says the common strategic objective was to "encourage the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue."
(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2005)

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