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Rumsfeld, Koizumi Discuss Rebuilding Iraq, Security Concerns - 2003-11-14

Rebuilding Iraq and Asia-Pacific security concerns were topics of discussion in Tokyo Friday when U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met with Japanese Leader Junichiro Koizumi. Mr. Rumsfeld is in the region to discuss the deployment of U.S. troops as part of a global force realignment.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi met Friday to discuss Iraq and U.S. security arrangements in Japan, where the United States bases 60,000 troops. Few details of their discussion were disclosed.

En route to the U.S. territory of Guam on Thursday, where Mr. Rumsfeld started his six-day trip, he said the United States had reached some preliminary conclusions about its worldwide defense realignment, and wanted to discuss these with its allies.

In Guam, he toured U.S. military facilities and met with American troops. He told them that North Korea is a potentially dangerous adversary and also discussed Iraq, saying there were no plans for an early U.S. withdrawal.

As he flew from Guam to Japan Friday, the defense secretary told reporters that international support for rebuilding Iraq remains firm, with 32 countries committing forces.

On Wednesday, a suicide attack killed 18 Italians at a military police headquarters in Nasiriya. After the attack, Japan postponed dispatching troops and South Korea limited its troop commitment. Seoul has halted all operations by its troops in southern Iraq until security is guaranteed.

Mr. Rumsfeld defended their right to make such decisions, saying that every country should come to its own conclusions about sending troops or other contributions to the U.S.-led coalition. He acknowledged that Iraq is "a dangerous place."

Japanese government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda also addressed the issue.

He said that Iraq's reconstruction will lead to security in the Middle East, peace in the world and stability in the global economy. He added that Japan has been playing a role in Iraq and will continue to do so.

Japan has pledged $5 billion to the rebuilding effort.

Iraqi reconstruction, U.S. troop deployments in Asia and North Korea's nuclear ambitions are on the agenda for a meeting Saturday between Mr. Rumsfeld and his Japanese counterpart, defense chief Shigeru Ishiba.

Mr. Rumsfeld will visit Okinawa on Sunday, where the U.S. stations about half of the 60,000 troops it keeps in Japan.

The defense secretary goes to South Korea on Sunday, to continue discussions on reconfiguring the 37,000 U.S. forces based there.