- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, who has irked Washington with skepticism on missile defenses and by refusing to see a senior U.S. envoy in Tokyo, is to meet Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in Washington next week.

Because the United States and Japan have one of the world´s closest diplomatic and military alliances, few have doubted that such a meeting would take place.

Nevertheless, Washington kept Mrs. Tanaka guessing after she announced the trip on Monday.

It took until yesterday to confirm an appointment Monday with Mr. Powell.

The State Department said in a statement that the two would discuss security and other issues and prepare for a summit between President Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Washington June 30.

Since she was named foreign minister in April, Mrs. Tanaka has emerged as a major skeptic of closer U.S.-Japan ties.

In May, she refused to meet with Richard Armitage, who had been sent to Tokyo as a special envoy by Mr. Bush to explain his approach to missile defense.

Mr. Armitage, who subsequently became U.S. deputy secretary of state, has been a longtime supporter of closer ties between Washington and Tokyo.

During the presidential campaign, he pledged that Mr. Bush, if elected, would make the U.S. alliance with Japan a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Pacific.

At the time, he criticized the Clinton administration for having failed to treat Japan with enough respect and for neglecting the relationship.

Japan was particularly slighted when Mr. Clinton made a long and colorful visit to China in 1998, calling China a "strategic partner" and failing to stop off for a visit to nearby Japan, where 48,000 U.S. troops were stationed.

Mr. Koizumi this week refused to rule out Japanese opposition for the proposed missile shield.

Mr. Koizumi said the Japanese Diet, or parliament, needs to "carefully consider" its position.

The government´s earlier official position on the missile defense was neutral.

Mr. Armitage, who was sent to Asia to explain the proposal to build a missile defense system that could shoot down attacks by rogue states, ran into reluctance to endorse the plan in both Japan and South Korea.

Analysts say both nations fear antagonizing China, which believes that its 18 to 24 nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the United States would be neutralized by any missile defense system.

"We have to carefully consider this issue, which has enormous influence on global security," Mr. Koizumi said.

Asked whether a U.S. missile defense system might trigger a global arms race, he said, "We can´t rule out that possibility."

Mr. Koizumi has faced strong criticism over the performance of his untried foreign minister, Mrs. Tanaka. Her main qualification for office appears to be that she is the daughter of the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, a longtime political boss of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Mrs. Tanaka´s comments that she had doubts about the missile defense system were made to diplomats in Italy and Australia and then leaked to the press by disgruntled Japanese Foreign Ministry officials.

She denied much of the reports but has been engaged in a bitter war with Foreign Ministry bureaucrats since then, attempting to fire one and reportedly barring others from her office.

Robert Manning, a Republican foreign policy adviser and former aide to Mr. Armitage, said the United States should be glad that the new leaders of Japan speak their minds, even if it´s not exactly what they want to hear.

Mr. Manning, a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview yesterday that China is emerging as a great power in Asia and "where is the counterweight?"

The United States wants Japan to be a leader in the region, a role the Asian nation historically has been reluctant to accept.

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