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Japan Calls for Continuing US Presence in Asia


Japan's finance minister, Koji Omi, Monday said a continuing U.S. presence in Asia is critical for economic development and stability in the region. VOA's Barry Wood reports Omi spoke at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Omi says U.S. leadership is essential to overcoming the challenges posed by North Korea's nuclear test last October and Iran's continuing drive to develop nuclear technology.

Nuclear testing in North Korea, he said, represents a grave threat and is totally unacceptable. He said Tokyo applauds Washington's decisive stand on North Korea and will do all it can to stop nuclear development in North Korea. He said the resumption of enrichment activities in Iran threatens the global non-proliferation system. Japan, he said, supports economic sanctions against Iran.

Omi made clear that Japan itself will resist remilitarization and developing its own nuclear arsenal. Instead, he said, Japan's security will continue to be safeguarded by its defense alliance with the United States.

"By giving our support to U.S. leadership we want to contribute in our own way to peace and prosperity primarily through economic strength and advanced science and technology," said Koji Omi.

Omi addressed the audience at the Washington research institution following discussions with U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. He said Japan's economy should expand by two percent this year and that the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which came to office last September, will try to reverse the decline in Japan's population, which he said, could fall within 50 years to 90 million from the current 128 million.

The 74-year-old Omi, delivering his remarks in English, said a decade of rapid economic growth has encouraged China to go its own way. Consequently, he said, more efforts are needed to fully integrate China into the world economy. But he cautioned about the continuing expansion of China's defense spending.

Despite a declining population and sluggish growth, Omi said Japan will use its brain power to remain an economic superpower in the decades ahead.