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4TH LD: Koizumi gives Bush positive signs on Iraq, beef imports.

KYOTO, Nov. 16 Kyodo


Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi indicated Wednesday in talks with U.S. President George W. Bush that Japan may extend its troop deployment in Iraq into next year and reopen its beef market as early as December.

During their 85-minute talks, Koizumi also pledged Japan's efforts to realize the recent bilateral accord on realigning the U.S. military presence in Japan, and called on Bush to help turn China into a constructive regional partner, Japanese and U.S. officials said.

Bush, in turn, offered his support for Japan's bid to obtain permanent U.N. Security Council membership and its attempts to resolve North Korea's past abductions of Japanese citizens, while calling for more efforts to advance the ongoing trade liberalization negotiations under the World Trade Organization.

The two leaders met for their first talks since last November at a time when the two countries have largely cleared up major contentious issues over Japan's import ban on U.S. beef and U.S. military realignment. The meeting also took place ahead of the Dec. 14 deadline for Japanese troops' mission to assist in reconstruction in Iraq.

At a press conference with Bush, Koizumi said he will decide on extending the Self-Defense Forces troops' aid mission in Iraq beyond December from the viewpoints not only of Iraq's reconstruction and Japan's role in the international community but also its alliance with the United States.

''We will consider first of all what Japan can do to help Iraq's reconstruction, and then its participation as a member of the international community at a time when multinational forces are struggling (with the reconstruction), as well as the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance,'' Koizumi said.

Bush said he appreciates Japan's efforts in Iraq as well as its support for the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan, and called on Japan to ''do the best you can do.''

As for the beef import issue, Koizumi said during the talks that he is hoping to resume beef imports from the United States as soon as possible as Bush called for an early resumption, according to the officials.

Koizumi told Bush that Tokyo is poised to make a decision ''in a few weeks'' from Nov. 29, Michael Green, senior director for Asian affairs on the White House National Security Council, told reporters after the meeting.

Japan banned U.S. beef imports in December 2003, when the United States discovered its first case of mad cow disease. But its Food Safety Commission recently advanced a panel recommendation for a conditional end to the ban to its final step of public comment that is due Nov. 29.

On China, Koizumi alluded to strained relations with the country over his visits to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, but reiterated his view that Japan's ties with China are basically strengthening.

But the Japanese premier also pointed to the need to try to convince China to become a ''constructive partner'' in political and national security areas, as he agreed with Bush's call for strong ties between Japan and the United States to help encourage China to improve its relations with both countries, the Japanese officials said.

At the press conference, Koizumi said his basic idea is that Japan can develop good relations with China, South Korea and other countries only when its ties with the United States are close and solid, and that the alliance's significance will not change in the future.

Both leaders highlighted the significance of the alliance. Koizumi said he regards the United States as the ''most indispensable ally'' for Japan, and Bush called the countries' ties ''a vital relationship...a very strong relationship.''

They also referred to their close personal ties, and Bush said ''I look forward to continuing to work with you throughout my presidency and your term as the prime minister.''

Prior to the talks, Koizumi and Bush visited the Golden Pavilion Temple, or Kinkakuji, a famous Zen Buddhist temple, early in the morning, accompanied by Bush's wife Laura.

The meeting was held in the ancient Japanese capital as Bush, on his third visit to Japan and first since October 2003, wished to visit a place other than Tokyo, a Japanese official said.

On the countries' Oct. 29 agreement on realigning the U.S. military presence in Japan, Koizumi said the Japanese government will make ''maximum efforts'' to realize it by persuading local governments opposed to the specific realignment plans that affect them.

Bush expressed expectations that the realignment will proceed under Koizumi's leadership. The plans include a reduction of 7,000 U.S. Marine Corps troops in Okinawa and a new compromise agreement on relocating the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station within the prefecture.

On the economic front, Bush asked and got assurances from Koizumi that U.S. and other insurance companies have a fair playing field in Japan after Japan Post's privatization, the officials said.

He also urged the Japanese leader to further promote economic reform at home, congratulating him on his leadership and his Liberal Democratic Party's election victory in September with his reform agenda at the center.

Both leaders also agreed on the importance of advancing the Doha Round of WTO trade liberalization talks, the officials said.

On North Korea, Bush appreciated Japan's participation in the six-way nuclear talks ''in making it clear to the leader of North Korea that in order for that nation to be accepted in the international community, it must verifiably dismantle all nuclear weapons programs,'' and reiterated that he shares the Japanese concern over Pyongyang's abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.

Koizumi and Bush also agreed to cooperate in working to prevent the spread of bird flu and to coordinate in providing development aid to other countries, Bush said.

Bush is on the first leg of a four-nation Asian tour through next Monday that will also take him to China and Mongolia. He arrived at Osaka airport Tuesday evening with his wife, and left for South Korea on Wednesday afternoon following his talks with Koizumi.

At a lunch for both guests, Bush asked Koizumi to convey his concerns about Myanmar when Koizumi next meets his counterpart from the country's ruling junta, Japanese officials said.

In an Asian policy speech he delivered before leaving Kyoto for South Korea, Bush raised his concerns about the ''lack of freedom in Burma'' while stressing the importance of the alliance with Japan in not only the Asian region but also the global economic and security arena.

''The alliance that you have made with the United States is the pillar of stability and security for the region -- and a source of confidence in Asia's future,'' Bush said in his speech at the Kyoto Kaikan hall.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Nov 21, 2005
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