Monday, February 12, 2007

U.S. asks Japan not to schedule Cheney-Kyuma meeting after remarks on Iraq war; so typical

U.S. asks Japan not to schedule Cheney-Kyuma meeting after remarks on Iraq war
February 12, 2007 JapanToday

The United States has asked Japan not to schedule a meeting between U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Japanese Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma during Cheney's visit to Japan from Feb 20, conveying strong displeasure with Kyuma's recent controversial remarks, sources close to the matter said Sunday.

The request underlined that the two nations have yet to fully put behind Kyuma's critical remarks over the Iraq war and the realignment of U.S. forces although they appeared to have settled the case with Washington's recent protest lodged with Tokyo through diplomatic channels.

Cheney is scheduled to meet top officers of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, and if the meeting with Kyuma is actually not set, it will turn out to be an unusual case of a foreign leader meeting with SDF officers but shunning talks with the chief of the Defense Ministry.

Kyuma angered Washington by saying Jan 24 that U.S. President George W Bush's decision to start the war on Iraq was "wrong." Three days later, Kyuma said the United States lacks understanding over talks with Okinawa Prefecture over relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futemma Air Station within the prefecture.

Foreign Minister Taro Aso also made a controversial remark on Feb 3, calling the U.S. policy on Iraq "very naive." But the Cheney side is not raising his remarks particularly as a problem, the sources said.

The sources also said Kyuma's remarks are not affecting other diplomatic schedules such as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the United States expected during the Golden Week holidays in early May as well as the ongoing arrangements to hold the so-called "two-plus-two" top security meeting of foreign and defense ministers of the two nations.

Cheney is scheduled to arrive in Japan on Feb 20 and visit the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Feb 21 for a briefing by top officers of the U.S. forces and the SDF about their progressing defense cooperation.

After the briefing, Cheney will head to Tokyo for talks with Abe and Aso and attend a welcoming dinner at the premier's official residence.

Cheney will visit the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk at the Yokosuka base on Feb 22 before heading to Guam.