Gates urges Japan to accept global security role

Posted in Japan | 08-Nov-07 | Author: Thom Shanker| Source: International Herald Tribune

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (R) speaks during a joint news conference with Japan's Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba in Tokyo November 8, 2007.

TOKYO: The U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates, pressed Japan on Thursday to play a more significant role in international security because of its importance in, and benefits from, the global economy.

"We would like to see Japan play a role on the international stage that befits its role as one of the greatest and wealthiest democracies," Gates said.

He noted that Japan could take on peacekeeping, reconstruction and humanitarian missions without violating constitutional limits on offensive military actions.

Nearing the end of travels across East Asia, Gates arrived in Tokyo, after stops in China and South Korea, as the Japanese Parliament is debating whether to recommence a navy refueling mission in the Indian Ocean that supported U.S.-led anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan.

The Japanese mission was suspended when a law authorizing the effort expired earlier this month.

Gates expressed thanks to his Japanese hosts for the refueling effort, and stressed that the mission was not simply one supporting a bilateral alliance. He said the Japanese refueling had contributed to a broad international coalition trying to bring freedom to Afghanistan.

During an evening news conference, Gates endorsed the Japanese government's efforts to overcome domestic opposition in order to renew the refueling mission.

U.S. officials have said that while replacing Japan's contribution to the fueling mission - about seven percent of the fuel required for the maritime effort - the Bush administration remains more broadly interested in maintaining concrete international support for its counterterrorism policies from as many countries as possible.

Japan and the United States also cooperate closely on missile defense, with Japanese domestic support for the program driven in large part by being well within range of North Korean ballistic missiles.

Japan is host to an advanced American radar system similar to the one the Bush administration has proposed basing in the Czech Republic, and Japan also is deploying a U.S. ship-borne missile interceptor system, called Aegis, aboard its destroyers.