• Kyodo

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Senior Japanese and U.S. officials met in Washington on Friday to exchange opinions on security issues, including the U.S. administration’s review of defense strategy and its missile defense initiative, Japanese officials said.

The United States confirmed its policy of keeping in close contact with Japan in compiling its quadrennial defense review report in September, they said. The U.S. also said it is holding talks with Russia to gain Moscow’s understanding for its plan to deploy a missile defense shield.

Japan told the U.S. that it wants to discuss with Washington how to improve the implementation of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, which covers the management of U.S. military bases in Japan.

Under SOFA, the U.S. military is not required to hand over suspects in criminal cases to Japanese authorities before they are indicted.

But following the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawa girl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995, Washington agreed to give “sympathetic consideration” to the transfer of suspects in serious crimes, such as murder and rape, before indictment.

A recent case in which a U.S. serviceman was arrested and charged with raping an Okinawan woman has invoked strong calls from the Japanese public for SOFA to be enforced more rigorously. The suspect has denied the allegations, claiming the woman had consented to sex.

Japanese participants in Friday’s meeting included Ichiro Fujisaki, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau, and Shingo Shuto, director general of the Defense Agency’s Defense Policy Bureau.

Among the members of the U.S. administration present were were James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Peter Rodman, assistant defense secretary for international security affairs.

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