Bush, Koizumi Reaffirm Strong U.S-Japan Alliance

By Todd Bullock
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The U.S.-Japan alliance enhances U.S. relations with other countries in the region and helps to strengthen international institutions, international peace and stability, as well as to bring greater freedom and opportunity throughout the world, says President Bush.

"The U.S. relationship with Japan is a vital relationship," Bush said at a November 16 press conference in Kyoto, Japan, with Japan Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi before their bilateral meeting. (See related article.)

The president's visit to Japan is the first stop on a weeklong trip to Asia to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ meeting Busan, South Korea.  (See related article.)

Bush voiced U.S. support for Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and acknowledged Tokyo's contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He applauded Koizumi's domestic reforms to strengthen Japan's economy and said he hoped Tokyo soon would lift its two-year ban on U.S. beef.

Following the Bush-Koizumi meeting, the senior director of the U.S. National Security Council for Asian Affairs, Michael Green, briefed reporters on the two leaders' discussions as well as recent developments in U.S.-Japan relations.

Green characterized the leaders' meeting as "a philosophical and strategic discussion about how the U.S.-Japan alliance fits in Japan's foreign policy" and how crucial that alliance is to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

The official cited recent developments between Japan and the United States such as an agreement on home-boarding a U.S. nuclear carrier in Japan, as well as a plan to realign U.S. forces stationed in Japan, strengthen interoperability and increase cooperation between U.S. and Japanese forces. (See related article.)

"This will lead to the biggest change in the U.S. military presence on Japan in over three decades," Green said.

Turning to the leaders' discussions on economics and trade, Green said Bush encouraged the resumption of U.S. beef exports to Japan and raised the issue of Japan's postal privatization, calling for "an equal playing field" for both U.S. and Japanese insurance companies competing for that business.

Koizumi recently led successful efforts to privatize Japan's postal service, securing hard-fought passage in the upper house of Japan’s Parliament of a package of bills to privatize Japan’s postal service over the next 12 years.   Japan’s postal service is used as a bank, the world’s largest, with more than $3 trillion in savings and insurance assets. 

Bush also raised the importance of working with Japan and other APEC nations to ensure the December WTO ministerial meetings in Hong Kong are successful in lowering tariffs, Green said.  (See USA and the WTO.)

"The two leaders had a broad discussion about strategic developments in the region," Green said, adding Bush observed the increasing economic cooperation throughout Asia.  "Japan and China are now emerging as each other's most important trading partners," he said.

Green said Bush acknowledged multilateral cooperation with several Asian countries on issues such as avian influenza and the Six-Party Talks to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

Regarding Taiwan, the president has been very clear that the U.S. position is a one China policy, which recognizes the government in Beijing, Green said.

"The president has made it clear today that we do not want to see any attempt by either side to unilaterally change the status quo," Green said, adding that Bush has urged Beijing and Taipei to "broaden their dialogue" in order to make progress.

"We want to encourage them to do it," Green said, "We don't have a role in determining the agenda or the outcome or anything of the sort, but the process is important."  For additional information, see U.S. Policy on China.

For ongoing coverage of the meetings in Busan, see Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Transcripts of the Bush-Koizumi press conference and the press briefing with NSC’s Green are available on the White House Web site.