Bush administration officials say the United States and Japan share concerns about the security of Taiwan, but that Washington and Tokyo will not be expanding the scope of their mutual security treaty. The comments came on the eve of the annual gathering of the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense and their Japanese counterparts, the so-called "two-plus-two" meeting. It is normally a low-profile affair. But Saturday's meeting at the State Department is drawing heavy attention after a Washington Post report that the two countries will declare for the first time in a joint statement that Taiwan is a "mutual security concern."
Such an assertion would be a policy departure for Japan, which has been circumspect on the issue in the interest of preserving relations with China. The newspaper said the pending statement was the most significant alteration of the U.S.-Japanese security alliance since 1996.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher did not contest the newspaper report, but said he did not want to "get ahead" of Saturday's meeting by predicting the outcome.
At the same time, he said the United States is not changing its "one-China" policy formally recognizing only Beijing, or its support for a resolution of the dispute between China and Taiwan through dialogue.
Mr. Boucher further said the United States and Japan do not intend to extend the scope of the mutual security treaty which has been the anchor of their relationship for more 50 years. And under questioning he rejected the notion that the United States considers China's emergence as an economic and military power as a threat. "We support the emergence of China in the region and on the world stage in many areas as its doing. We also expect China to play by the rules, to adapt to various standards of conduct that other responsible international players use," he said. "And they have in fact in many areas shown that, whether it's joining the WTO(World Trade Organization), or their activity in support of Security Council resolutions, things like that. So that's a process that, overall, we see as a positive one for China, the people of China, and for the world."
Mr. Boucher said the U.S. view of China's behavior is not entirely "rosy" and that it has frequently expressed concern about among other things its export of missile technology and Chinese military activity in the Taiwan Straits area.
Earlier Friday in a talk with reporters with Dutch Foreign Minister Bernhard Bot, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also declined to discuss Saturday's draft statement. But she said the U.S. Japanese dialogue has long addressed matters of mutual concern, including Taiwan, and that they both oppose unilateral moves to change the status quo. "We have cautioned all parties that there should no attempt to change the status quo unilaterally. That means no attempt by China to change the status quo unilaterally, no attempt by Taiwan to change the status quo unilaterally," he said. "And our efforts to maintain stability in the region count very much on American adherence, and that of our allies, and Japan is certainly an ally, that the cross-straits problem would be resolved peacefully."
Ms. Rice said she and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld look forward to discussing with Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Defense Minister Yoshinori Ono how they can continue to promote peace and security in the region.
Japan's post-World War Two constitution limits that country's military to self-defense, but with U.S. encouragement it has been playing a larger international role, including disaster relief and a non-combat troop deployment in Iraq.
The U.S.-Japanese Mutual Security Treaty, signed in 1951, authorized the stationing of U.S. troops in Japan and committed them to the joint defense of Japanese territories against armed attacks.