Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Monday that Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka criticized U.S. plans for a National Missile Defense system when she met with her Australian counterpart last week.

Fukuda said that during a phone conversation earlier in the day, former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto confirmed that during a discussion May 29, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told him he was concerned by anti-U.S. remarks Tanaka made the day before.

Fukuda told a news conference that he expects Tanaka to “clearly explain her remarks to the U.S. to remove any misunderstanding.”

Tanaka reportedly criticized the U.S. missile shield plan as well as President George W. Bush when she met with Downer in Tokyo.

According to some reports, Tanaka also allegedly claimed that Bush’s policies are influenced by the oil industry in Texas and that the current situation could have been avoided if former Vice President Al Gore had won the presidency.

Fukuda did not elaborate on whether Tanaka went on to criticize Bush.

According to media reports, Downer told Hashimoto that he would inform the U.S. of Tanaka’s remarks, citing the mutual trust between Australia and the U.S.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday defended the controversial but popular foreign minister, stressing that he will discuss the future course of Japan-U.S. relations when he meets Bush on June 30 at Camp David, Md.

“We will take time to discuss the basic course of Japan-U.S. diplomacy at the upcoming summit,” Koizumi said. “I don’t think there will be a problem.”

Tanaka also reportedly criticized the U.S. National Missile Defense plan when she spoke with Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini on May 25 in Beijing.

On Saturday, Tanaka released a statement confirming that she discussed the missile defense issue with Downer. However, she maintained that her comments were consistent with the government’s position that Japan “understands” the U.S. plan.

Tanaka reiterated her denial that she made negative remarks about the plan during her lunch talks with Dini.

Meanwhile, LDP policy chief Taro Aso said Monday evening that Tanaka will not visit the U.S. during the current Diet session, which is scheduled to end in late June.

“She cannot afford the time during the Diet session,” Aso told reporters.

Initially, the government planned to send her to the U.S. before the summit meeting between Koizumi and Bush.

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