Cheney in Japan amid Iraq hostage crisis
TOKYO: US Vice President Dick Cheney arrived here on Saturday for talks with Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi likely to be dominated by the kidnapping of three Japanese citizens in Iraq.
Mr Cheney is expected to reassure Japan, a key US ally in Asia, that it should stay the course on Iraq despite the militants’ threats to kill the hostages unless Japan withdraws its 550 grounds troops.
He is also likely to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue and Tokyo’s ban on US beef in his first official visit to Japan, which was postponed from a year ago due to the Iraq war.
While in Tokyo, Mr Cheney is scheduled to meet with Koizumi, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda on Monday and Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Tuesday. He will travel on to China on Tuesday to continue his Asian tour, which will also take him to South Korea.
Mr Cheney will also discuss the North Korean nuclear issue as the vice-president later goes to China and South Korea, member nations of six-party talks aimed at solving the crisis.
The vice-president is also expected to raise Japan’s ban on US beef imports, which followed the discovery of the first US case of mad cow disease in December.
Japan was the number one export market for US beef, which represented almost a third of its beef consumption. It has argued that before lifting its ban the US must screen all slaughtered cows for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and remove all “risk materials” such as the brain, spinal cord and eyes. Washington insists that testing only higher risk animals such as older cows would suffice. —AFP