• Kyodo

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— Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani told the United States on Friday that any missile defense program Japan may build would be independent of U.S. plans to build a national defense shield.

Nakatani outlined the policy in a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.

“If Japan is to own a missile defense system, it should be used to protect Japan’s territory and be operated by Japan on its own initiative,” Nakatani reportedly said during his one-hour meeting with Rumsfeld.

Nakatani’s comments seem to clarify Tokyo’s position that the current Japan-U.S. research on a localized theater missile defense system will form no part of Washington’s planned national missile defense project. Tokyo is apparently concerned that the incorporation of any Japan-based missile defense system into U.S. President George W. Bush’s missile defense initiative would breach Japan’s self-imposed ban on the use of the right to collective defense, or the right to help allies under foreign attack.

Without close cooperation with the U.S. in such fields as intelligence and technology, however, it would be difficult for Japan to build its own missile defense system.

Tokyo has so far expressed “understanding” of U.S. intentions to develop a national missile shield. Japanese officials said Nakatani reiterated that policy to Rumsfeld.

Nakatani also told Rumsfeld that Japan intends to continue research into the joint theater missile defense, they said. Rumsfeld, for his part, expressed hope that Japan will play a more active role in security.

Nakatani told reporters that he briefed Rumsfeld about moves in Japan to review the ban on the right to collective defense and study laws regulating bilateral cooperation in case of an attack against Japan.

Rumsfeld said that although these issues should be handled by Japan, he is interested in how they develop, according to Nakatani.

The meeting, the first between the two top defense officials since Bush took office in January, was held to discuss bilateral security ties prior to the summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Bush on June 30 at the presidential retreat of Camp David outside Washington. Japanese officials said Nakatani and Rumsfeld agreed to strengthen the Japan-U.S. security relationship by creating a new consultative body.

The planned consultative body, which will include Self-Defense Forces officials, will discuss issues including how the SDF and U.S. forces in Japan should be organized for stability in Northeast Asia, they said.

The officials said Nakatani also asked the U.S. to consider transferring some of the training activities by the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa to other locations.

He also conveyed the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s demand for a 15-year limit on the U.S. military’s use of facilities to be built in the northern part of Okinawa to cover the heliport functions of the marines’ Futenma Air Station in central Okinawa, which is to be returned to Japan. U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones, who accompanied Rumsfeld at the meeting, said the marines in Okinawa are making efforts to conduct exercises off the island and that they want to expand such moves, according to Japanese officials.

Nakatani and Rumsfeld also reaffirmed the importance for Japan, South Korea and the U.S. of maintaining close policy coordination to cope with issues regarding North Korea, they said.

Rumsfeld met with Kim Dong Shin, South Korean defense minister, at the Pentagon on Thursday and agreed to boost military readiness against North Korea as it still poses a threat to the security of the Korean Peninsula through its nuclear and missile programs.

After meeting with Rumsfeld, Nakatani briefly held separate talks with other U.S. officials, including former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Foley and Torkel Patterson, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

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