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US, Japan: Taiwan a common security issue
Updated: 2005-02-20 09:24

The United States and Japan listed in a joint statement for the first time that easing tensions in the Taiwan Strait was their "common strategic objectives."

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (L) listens to Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura during a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. The US and Japan declared that Taiwan was a common security issue. [AFP]

A joint statement released after a top ministerial meeting in Washington on Saturday of the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee, said that 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."

The statement said that the United States and Japan will continue to seek a "peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue."”

It is the first time that the governments of the United States and Japan have ever issued a joint statement concerning the Taiwan Strait in the half-century US-Japanese alliance, diplomats said.

L-R: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Japanese Defense Minister Yoshinori Ono attend a press conference after talks at the US State Department.[AFP]

"It (the Taiwan Strait) is seldom, if at all, referred to in a formal document," a US official acknowledged after the “2+2” meeting between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and defense chief Yoshinori Ono.

They also urged China "to improve transparency of its military affairs," the statement said.

Chinese Government and people resolutely opposes the United States and Japan in issuing any bilateral document concerning China's Taiwan, which meddles the internal affairs of China, and hurts China's sovereignty.

China's foreign ministry said that peace, development and cooperation are the growings trends of the world, and aspirations of all earth's residents. It urged the United States to see to their respective commitments toward Chinese people concerning Taiwan, and refrain from doing things that affect peace and stability in Asia and Pacific.

The "two plus two" bilateral discussions were last held in December 2002.

Washington switched recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979 while Japan ended its diplomatic ties with the island in 1972 to establish relations with Beijing.

Beijing has been increasingly worried that Taiwan, under the leadership of independence-leaning leader Chen Shui-bian, is inching towards a formal breakaway.

Meanwhile, senior US and Japanese officials vowed 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.

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."

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