- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Japan wants Bush

If John Kerry is still counting on those unnamed foreign leaders for support in his Democratic presidential campaign, he cannot count on the prime minister of Japan.

An open secret in Japan is that Junichiro Koizumi prefers President Bush to the senator from Massachusetts, a Japanese official said yesterday.

Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Bush have forged a strong relationship on key security issues such as Iraq and North Korea, said Hatsuhisa Takashima, spokesman for Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, who is on a Washington visit this week.

Mr. Takashima, over lunch with editors and reporters from The Washington Times, emphasized that he was relating the mood of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and not giving his personal view of the U.S. presidential election.

“The party has strong feelings toward the Republicans,” Mr. Takashima said. “Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Bush have very good relations.”

Party leaders believe Republicans are more supportive of free trade than the Democrats. They suspect Mr. Kerry might favor China over Japan in trade relations and open direct talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, instead of relying on the six-way talks that include Japan.

Mr. Takashima said that according to news reports in Japan, “The prime minister feels he is in the inner circle of the Bush administration.”

In Tokyo this week, one of the prime minister’s legislative allies, Yoshimasa Hayashi, told Reuters news agency, “The two leaders have a relationship of trust. There is no guarantee that there would be the same level of trust” with Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Koizumi risked his political career to support Mr. Bush by deploying Japanese troops into a theater of conflict for the first time since the end of World War II. The deployment required special legislation because of Japan’s pacifist constitution.

Mr. Takashima said the Japanese public was mostly opposed to the war in Iraq but supported the prime minister’s decision to send troops there because they believe in the importance of maintaining good U.S.-Japanese relations.

Japan has about 300 troops in southern Iraq, where they are building roads, bridges and schools and providing medical assistance. They are prohibited from engaging in combat. The law that allowed the deployment has to be renewed in December.

Mr. Takashima said the foreign minister met yesterday with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and will meet with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick today.

In addition to Iraq, the discussions will cover U.S. plans for repositioning American troops in Japan and trade issues that include a potential removal of Japan’s ban on U.S. meat imports, imposed last year after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in the United States.

Building in Berlin

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Dan Coats yesterday turned a shovelful of dirt to break ground at a new American embassy in Berlin, after U.S. and German officials bickered over details of the building for more than five years.

The embassy will be built on property near the city’s Brandenburg Gate, and near the no man’s land where the Berlin Wall divided East and West Berlin. The United States bought the site in 1930.

“Today the Brandenburg Gate is a symbol of unity and strength for Germany, Europe and the world,” Mr. Coats said at the ceremony. “The decision of the United States to return to this historic site symbolizes America’s support of a unified world.”

Berlin city officials raised objections to the initial plans with a 30-yard-wide security perimeter that would have required closing two main roads in the city. The city agreed to a reduced perimeter of 25 yards.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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