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Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda declined July 31 to specify the geographical scope of “areas surrounding Japan” that, according to a new bilateral defense cooperation guideline, would require Japanese military support for U.S. forces in the event of war.

The deliberately undefined key phrase, considered by some to mean the Asia-Pacific region, appears in a preliminary report issued in June for the ongoing review of the 1978 Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines. It is to be finalized in the fall. “We cannot specify the fringes of the region in advance, because of the nature of the issue,” Ikeda said in a speech at the Japan National Press Club.

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