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US Vice President Wraps Up Japan Trip - 2004-04-13

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has finished a four-day stay in Japan and is headed to Beijing, the next stop on his week-long Asian tour. Before departing, Mr. Cheney met Japan's emperor and gave a foreign policy speech. At both stops, much of the focus was on events in Iraq.

Calling the U.S.-Japan relationship one of the great achievements of modern history, Vice President Dick Cheney said it is important to continue to stand together to defeat threats to the countries' shared civilization. He again praised Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for refusing to bow to the demands of militants in Iraq who have threatened to kill three Japanese hostages if Tokyo does not pull its troops out of the country.

"It's important that our governments not be intimidated by threats or violence or resort to this kind of action," said Mr. Cheney. "And that we not allow terrorists to change or influence the policies of our governments by virtue of these kinds of acts."

Mr. Koizumi is facing increasing pressure from families of the hostages and some opposition parties to withdraw the more than five hundred Japanese troops now Iraq.

Before giving a speech Tuesday at a symposium on Japan-U.S. relations, the vice president talked with Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace. That meeting prompted a rare statement from a Japanese imperial family member on a controversial political matter.

The emperor, according to Japanese officials, defended the country's military mission in Iraq and said the troops are there to provide reconstruction assistance. The emperor also made an appeal for the release of the three Japanese hostages, now in their sixth day of captivity.

Mr. Cheney, responding to written questions from the symposium audience on Tuesday, said handing over civilian authority to an Iraqi government will all Iraqis to decide such matters as the role of the United Nations the country. The civilian government is expected to begin operating June 30. "At that point, we will begin to transfer sovereign authority to a new interim government in Iraq that the Iraqi people themselves will take on the responsibility for making most of the day-to-day decisions," he said.

After the speech, Mr. Cheney headed to Beijing, where he is expected to discuss the escalating violence in Iraq, as well as the multilateral talks China has arranged to resolve the North Korean nuclear dispute.

On Thursday, he goes to Seoul, arriving the same day South Korea holds parliamentary elections.