Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka’s reported criticism of a U.S. missile defense plan makes her planned visit to the U.S. unlikely, government sources said Tuesday.
While the Foreign Ministry has not received any response from the United States over Tanaka’s desire to meet Secretary of State Colin Powell, negotiations are continuing over squeezing the meet into Powell’s tight schedule.
Because the U.S. is unlikely to hold talks on weekends, and Tanaka will have difficulty getting away during the week due to her Diet schedule, it is increasingly unlikely that she will get to the U.S. before Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit June 30.
Although Washington has never officially criticized Tanaka’s remarks, “the ill feeling toward the remarks is certainly behind the lack of response from the United States,” one source said.
“One possible scenario is that she goes to the United States along with Koizumi,” the source said.
The sources confirmed that Tanaka did voice concerns over the U.S. missile defense plan to her Italian and Australian counterparts, saying it could provoke China.
They said Washington has inquired about Tanaka’s remarks and showed displeasure through diplomatic channels.
The Foreign Ministry explained that Japan’s stance that it “understands” the U.S. plan remains unchanged.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, Tanaka again denied that she had voiced doubts about the plan.
She said she wants to go to the U.S. and explain her stance. “I understand the U.S. idea that it needs to defend against proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Tanaka said. “The research over the missile defense is necessary.”
But Tanaka refused to disclose what she actually said during her talks with her counterparts.
She also criticized ministry officials for leaking information about her talks with her foreign counterparts. “I wonder what’s going on with the bureaucrats’ obligation for confidentiality,” she said, adding that “deliberate leaking of information hurts the national interest.”
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