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Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005

Iraq, beef, bases, bird flu on agenda for Bush-Koizumi meeting

Staff writer

KYOTO -- U.S. President George W. Bush arrived in Japan on Tuesday evening for a two-day visit that will include a summit with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on trade and regional security.

News photo
Protesters march Tuesday night in front of Yasaka Shrine in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, holding a banner protesting the summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush.

The meeting Wednesday in the ancient capital is expected to include topics ranging from continuing the Self-Defense Forces mission in Iraq to restarting U.S. beef imports to measures to prevent a bird flu pandemic.

Bush is at the start of a four-nation Asian tour and will head Thursday to South Korea, then on to China and Mongolia, before returning to the U.S.

Bush, who enjoys particularly warm personal relations with Koizumi, has embarked on this trip with the lowest public approval ratings of his presidency, due to growing opposition in the U.S. over the Iraq war, which has killed more than 2,000 Americans and at least 30,000 Iraqis, the indictment of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, and the administration's much-maligned response to Hurricane Katrina in August.

The Iraq war, and Japan's contribution to it, will be raised at the summit, U.S. and Japanese officials said Tuesday.

Koizumi is expected to extend the SDF mission, currently set to expire Dec. 14, by between six months and one year.

However, there is growing speculation that the Ground Self-Defense Force contingent will be pulled from Samawah by next September, when Koizumi is expected to leave office. The Air Self-Defense Force, which transports humanitarian goods and U.S. military supplies between Kuwait and southern Iraq, could stay on.

Also to be discussed at the summit is an agreement announced last month to relocate the U.S. Marines Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa, to Nago, also in the prefecture. The new facility is planned for a section of Camp Schwab and extending just offshore.

Under the U.S. military realignment plan for Japan, Washington will relocate nearly 7,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam, and the two nations also have agreed to relocate the U.S. 1st Army Corps headquarters from Washington state to Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture and to forward-deploy a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier at Yokosuka starting in 2008.

But Tokyo faces strong opposition to the proposals, with Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine against the plans for Okinawa, and Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa having spoken out against the changes for Camp Zama.

With contentious issues like Futenma unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, security talks between Bush and Koizumi could take a back seat to more immediate economic issues.

Both U.S. and Japanese officials said Bush will push Japan to resume beef imports banned in December 2003 after an animal infected with mad cow disease was found in Washington state.

With winter nearly here, the leaders may also discuss ensuring stable crude oil prices.

The choice of Kyoto as the summit venue initially had prompted groaning from some in Washington that Japan would use the occasion to press for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on the environment.

"Just what we need, to see the words 'Kyoto' and 'Bush' in the same dispatch yet again," a U.S. government official based in Washington told The Japan Times shortly after it was announced last month that the ancient capital would be the location for the summit.

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The Japan Times

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