US Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday wrapped up his visit to Japan. During the three-day tour, he held a series of talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, exchanging ideas with top Japanese officials on topics ranging from strengthening the US-Japan alliance, cooperation on the Korean peninsula nuclear issue and continuation of support for the US-led war against terrorism.
Analysts said that the main goal of Cheney's Japan tour was to seek support for the US new Iraq policy and call on Japan to be consistent with the United States in the war against terrorism, so that to further boost the bilateral ally.
Cheney's visit came at a time when some inharmonious comments emerged inside Japan against the US Iraq policy. Japanese Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma told reporters on Jan. 24 that it was wrong for US President George W. Bush to wage the Iraq war on the judgment that the country owned weapons of mass destruction. Aso said during his speech in Kyoto on February 3 that the US occupation policy on Iraq is "very naive" and its current governing policy led to the deterioration of the country's security situation.
The bold controversial remarks by two important ministers of the Abe Cabinet irked the Bush administration. To expressed its discontentment, the US government decided to postpone the "two plus two" meeting of foreign and defense ministers from the two sides. And Cheney, a hardliner in strong support of military action against Iraq, met with high-level officials of the Self-Defense Forces during his visit, but refused to meet Kyuma.
One of the crucial contents of the new US policy on Iraq adopted just weeks ago is to dispatch another 20,000 troops to the country. The United States is counting on close ally Japan economically to continue its cooperation under the new strategy.
In a speech on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawkat at the US naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Cheney praised Japan for its immediate pledge of support for the war against terror right after the "Sept. 11 attack" and its generous aids for the reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said the relations between the United States and Japan "have never been better than they are today," and that the United States is proud to call Japan one of its closest allies. The gratitude and commendation were no more than calling for continued support from Japan for the new US policy on Iraq.
Recently, the United States and Japan saw inconsistency in their policies on the Korean peninsula nuclear issue. The United States made a change to its high pressure policy on North Korea and mulled delisting the country from "sponsors of terrorism." However, Japan firmly insisted that it will not give assistance to North Korea unless the issue of the country's past abduction of Japanese nationals were resolved and was worried about the US change of attitude.
During his meeting with Abe, Cheney assured Japan that resolving the abduction issue is a common task for both the United States and Japan, intending to get in return Japan's support for its new Iraq policy.
Ever since Abe took office in September, the US-Japan honeymoon relationship seemed not to be as close as it used to be. He did not choose the United States for the first stop of his official trip as his predecessors did, and even refrained from a US tour up to now, marking an abnormal phenomenon. However, Abe is never to be much different from former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the US-reliant strategy. In his policy address at the parliament, Abe described the US-Japan ties as axis of Japan's foreign policy and vowed to further boost the bilateral ties.
The United States succeeded in using the Cheney tour to coordinate its bilateral ties with Japan. Just as what Abe said, the two countries will continue to be partners with common values, the bilateral alliance is unshakable and the visit by the US vice president will contribute to the strengthening of the alliance.
Analysts said the US-Japan ties are to experience another boost in May, when Abe is scheduled to carry out his long-awaited official visit to the United States.
(Xinhua News Agency February 22, 2007)