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Rice Sees Japan as Close Security Ally

Praising Japan as a steadfast ally, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) said Friday that maintaining peace in the Asia Pacific region was a shared goal and she looked forward to a joint effort to restrain China from using force against Taiwan (search).

With Japan's foreign and defense ministers en route to Washington to discuss the U.S.-Japan security alliance, Rice said ensuring stability was the aim, a reflection of "very deep and broad relations" between Washington and Tokyo.

Until now, Japan has left it to the United States to deal with China's wrath and threats to use force against Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province that must be reabsorbed by the mainland.

Rice, in a joint news conference with visiting Foreign Minister Bernard Bot of The Netherlands, reiterated the long-standing U.S. admonition to China.

"There should be no attempt to change the status quo unilaterally," she said.

The United States' security alliance with Japan has formed the backbone of U.S. foreign policy in Asia since the 1960s. But the two allies have long disagreed about how to deal with China's territorial claim over self-ruled Taiwan, which split with Beijing amid civil war in 1949.

Washington has indicated it would intervene if China was to try to take Taiwan by force, while a cautious Japan has traditionally sought to avoid involvement.

During talks Saturday in Washington with Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono plan to adopt "common strategic objectives" that would include ensuring security in Taiwan and on the Korean Peninsula (search), the Kyodo News Agency reported.

In a draft security document, the two sides describe hostilities across the Taiwan Strait and on the Korean Peninsula as "unpredictable and unstable factors in the region" that need to be addressed, Kyodo said.

The document, first reported in The Washington Post, would be the most significant change in the security alliance since 1996.

Rice said she and Rumsfeld look forward very much to the discussions about "how we continue to promote peace and security in this region."