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Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007
Greater security role is in Japan's interest: Gates
By KAHO SHIMIZU
Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday urged Japan to take a larger role in the global war on terrorism and called for more multilateral cooperation in Asia to deal with the region's security challenges, including terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
Speaking at Sophia University in Tokyo, Gates noted Asia is not immune from the threat of terrorism, adding that Japan and other parts of Asia should work together to achieve peace in the Middle East.
"Instability or failed states halfway around the world can have serious implications at home," Gates said, adding that Japan should also keep in mind that the country imports 80 percent of its oil from the Persian Gulf.
"Japan has the opportunity and an obligation to take on a role that reflects its political, economic and military capacity," he said, adding that the U.S. support for Japan to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council is based on this assumption.
"That is why we hope and expect Japan will choose to accept more global security responsibilities in the years ahead."
Only a week ago, Japan ended its logistic support mission in the Indian Ocean in line with the U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan when the special antiterrorism law that authorized Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels to engage in refueling duties expired Nov. 1.
The ruling bloc is trying to get a new bill approved during the current Diet session to resume the operation as quickly as possible, but the fate of the bill remains unclear with the Upper House now controlled by the opposition camp.
Gates met with government leaders, including Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura — all of whom assured him that the ruling bloc is determined to resume the MSDF's mission.
In his speech, Gates also touched on North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
"The U.S. knows we cannot block the flow of these weapons on our own, which is why we work with partners," the defense secretary said, noting that multilateral ties are necessary to address the nuclear nonproliferation issue.
He also stressed the importance of the missile defense shield jointly being pursued by Japan and the United States.
"Building this capability and countering this threat is of special significance to the people in Japan, given the direct danger to your homeland posed by North Korea's weapons programs," Gates told the audience.
During his speech, Gates reiterated that planned reorganization of the U.S. forces in Asia does not represent any reduction in the U.S. security commitment in the region.
"The repositioning of our forces is really a reflection of maturing of our alliance relationship here in Asia," Gates said. "(The reduction of the U.S. forces) also reflects the growing importance of all of these countries for them to take responsibility for their own security and not just (depend) on the United States to be their guarantor."