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Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed Sunday to hold strategic talks at the ministerial level to discuss the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region.

The high-level talks will be part of discussions on realigning U.S. forces in Japan.

Powell told reporters after the meeting that the presence of the U.S. military here and its transformation have to be dealt with in terms of the “strategic needs” of Tokyo and Washington.

Powell said he will discuss with Machimura “in the months ahead” the transformation plan, including reducing the troop presence in Okinawa.

Machimura said the two sides did not agree to a specific time frame on when they would come up with a conclusion, but Powell’s remark was widely seen as a sign Washington wants to speed up the talks.

Machimura told reporters the two sides will hold strategic dialogue among defense and foreign ministers, often referred to as “two-plus-two” talks, or between Powell and him.

During Sunday’s meeting, Machimura reportedly stressed the need to hold discussions on the security situation in the region as well as the respective roles and mission of Japan and the U.S.

A Japanese official who briefed reporters said that on North Korea, the two sides agreed to work together on having the next round of six-party talks on the North’s nuclear development held as soon as possible, Machimura said.

Powell also met with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi before flying to China.

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