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U.S., Japan to address China's growing military

From Elise Labott

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U.S. officials are closely watching China's expanding military.
• CIA: China buildup tilting balance
United States

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- China's growing military and its threat to Taiwan will be primary topics of conversation when foreign and defense ministers from the United States and Japan meet Saturday, State Department officials said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will hold talks with their Japanese counterparts at the State Department as part of a regular formal dialogue on the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, a cornerstone of U.S. national security interests in East Asia.

The Washington Post reported in Friday's editions that Saturday's discussions will include a focus on Taiwan as a new security concern. The paper also suggested a communiqué issued after the talks would call for Japan to take a greater role in coordination with U.S. forces in Asia.

The talks come as the United States considers how to realign the nearly 50,000 U.S. forces in Japan.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Friday afternoon that any discussions about Taiwan or about a greater role for Japan would be "within the scope" of the two nations' mutual security treaty.

"We and Japan are allies," Boucher said. "When there are tensions in some parts of Asia -- whether it's North Korea, the Taiwan Strait or some other part of Asia -- we talk to Japan about it."

China views Taiwan as a renegade province that must be united with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Although U.S. policy recognizes Taiwan as part of China, the Bush administration has been increasingly concerned about China's threat to use force against Taiwan, should it move toward independence.

The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but has pledged to protect it and provide arms sales through the Taiwan Relations Act.

Rice said Friday that "the cross-strait issue is an issue of concern in the Asia Pacific" and that stability in the region depends on a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue.

"We have cautioned all parties that there should be no attempt to change the status quo unilaterally," she said. "That means no attempt by China to change the status quo unilaterally, no attempt by Taiwan to change the status quo unilaterally."

A senior State Department official said that while the United States has consistently talked with Japan about the tension across the Taiwan Strait, "we are going to note this in public this time because we want others to know that we are both concerned about it."

Officials have also warned about China's aggressive military buildup. On Wednesday, CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that China's military buildup not only tilts the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, it threatens U.S. forces in the region. (Full story)

Boucher said that China's emerging military and economic power in Asia is seen as positive -- for example, in the World Trade Organization and in the U.N. Security Council.

He said there are areas of concern, such as China's threats against Taiwan and Beijing's export of missile technology.

"We support the emergence of China in the region and on the world stage in many areas, as it's doing," Boucher said. But he added, "we also expect China to play by the rules, to adopt the various standards of conduct that other responsible international players use."

The senior State Department official said that while China's main goal of expanding its military might is to intimidate Taiwan, it is also trying to demonstrate its power in the region and operating in areas where the United States has operations, "which is not a good thing."

The official added that Japan is concerned about moves by China, such as a recent incursion into Japanese waters by a Chinese submarine.

Saturday's talks will also include the North Korean nuclear issue. The United States is working with Japan, China and Russia to persuade North Korea to return to six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear program.

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