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UPDATED: 07:47, November 17, 2005
Roundup: Koizumi, Bush hails alliance, downplaying beef issue
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Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and visiting US President George W. Bush stressed Wednesday the importance to remain close allies and shrugged off the dispute on US beef imports.

Emerging from an one hour and 15 minutes meeting, Koizumi told reporter that the Japan-US alliance in the global context was the "overriding" contents of their talks, describing the relationship with the United States was "indispensable" to Japan.

"We emphasized and confirmed the importance of closer consultation between the two. The United States remains the most indispensable ally to Japan," he said.

Koizumi rejected critics that the two countries are too close and Japan should pay more attention to other issues and strengthen relationship with other countries.

He said if the relationship with US remains close and intimate as it will be easier for Japan to establish better relationship with Asian neighbors and countries in other parts of the world.

Bush said he valued Koizumi as a close friend, and the US-Japan relationship as "vital" and "strong."

"The strong relationship enables us to work together to keep the peace," Bush said.

On his part, Koizumi said he would make efforts to persuade the local governments to accept the regrouping plan of the US troops in Japan.

Japan and the United States announced an interim report last month on the realignment of US forces in Japan.

Responding to growing cries from the local governments and people, especially those of the Okinawa prefecture, the United States will remove some military facilities and about 7,000 troops from the prefecture.

On Japan's Self-Defense Forces' humanitarian mission in Iraq which expires on December, Koizumi said whether Japanese troops would pull out should take into consideration of Japan's contribution to the international community and its alliance with the United States, suggesting that the troops could stay longer.

"We will consider first of all what Japan can do to help Iraq's reconstruction, then its participation as a member of the international community at a time multinational forces are struggling for it, and moreover, the importance of the Japan-US alliance," Koizumi said.

When asked about his attitude, Bush said it was up to the Japanese government and the Japanese people.

Concerning Japan's ban on importation of US beef, Bush said the two sides are making progress in solving the dispute.

A Japanese food safety panel has drawn a favorable conclusion on the safety of US beef imports. The Japanese government is expected to determine next month whether to life the two-year-old ban due to mad cow disease.

Japan was the largest US beef buyer before the ban. Some US lawmakers have urged the congress to take retaliatory actions if Japan fails to reopen the market within this year.

Bush said they agreed that the World Trade Organization's Doha Round of talks "must proceed."

They also agreed to move jointly in the efforts of preventing the spread of bird flu.

The two leaders said they would work together to realize the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsular.

Before the talks, Bush visited the Golden Pavilion Temple, a popular tourist site listed as World Cultural Heritage.

This is the third time for Bush to visit Japan since he took power in 2001. The last visit was in October, 2003.

He left Japan for South Korea Wednesday evening to meet with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and attend the summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Then, he will visit China and Mongolia.

Source: Xinhua

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