Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga left Tokyo on Sunday for a top security meeting with their US counterparts in Washington.
The May 1 meeting, aiming to finalize an implementation package for US military realignment in Japan, will also involve US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Japan and the United States have agreed on April 23 to share the cost for moving 8,000 US Marines from Okinawa to Guam, with Tokyo paying US$6.09 billion, or 59 percent, of the US$10.27 billion. The two recently also resolved the tough issue of relocating the Marine Futemma Air Station within Okinawa, thus paving the way for the top security meeting.
Previous disagreements on the cost issue and others have kept the two nations from meeting the March 31 deadline to settle the whole implementation plan, as decided in October 2005.
The two alliance are expected to nail down the overall cost sharing plan in the meeting. A senior Pentagon official revealed on Tuesday that Tokyo would shoulder 26 billion dollars or more for the whole implementation package, provoking complaints from some Japanese officials.
Besides attending the security meeting, Aso will also hold talks with Rice to discuss Iraq situation, Iranian and Korean Peninsula nuclear issues, according to Japan's foreign ministry. Aso will also meet with US Vice President Dick Cheney.
Meanwhile, Nukaga may also meet separately with Rumsfeld to discuss revising the guidelines for the bilateral security alliance and both countries' troop deployments in Iraq, Kyodo News said.
After leaving the United States, Aso will visit Belgium and Lithuania. According to the Japanese foreign ministry, Aso will hold talks with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General on Thursday.
The foreign minister will also meet with Belgium Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, as well as Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas before returning to Japan on May 7.
(Xinhua News Agency April 30, 2006)