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Rice soothes Japan on rape case

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. Secretary of State hopes U.S. Marine's arrest won't hurt U.S.-Japan ties
  • Rice to meet Japan's prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister
  • She is expected to express sentiments for alleged actions of service members
  • More than 40, 000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan, mostly in Okinawa
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TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Japan on Wednesday on a mission to smooth tensions created by rape allegations against two U.S. service members and to try to jump-start stalled North Korean nuclear talks.

Rice's whirlwind visit includes meetings with Japan's prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister.

Emotions have run high against the U.S. military -- mostly located on the Japanese island of Okinawa -- after the arrest of a U.S. Marine in the alleged rape of a 14-year-old Japanese girl as well as allegations that a U.S. Army employee raped a Filipino woman.

Both incidents allegedly happened on Okinawa, where people have long resented the presence of the U.S. military.

Rice was expected to express sentiments, possibly condolences, for the alleged actions of the service members at an evening news conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, CNN's Kyung Lah reported.

Before coming to Japan, the secretary of state's Asian tour has been dominated by North Korea and efforts to jump-start denuclearization talks as she met with officials in China and South Korea.

"What Dr. Rice is looking for is a change in the political winds," Lah said. "We have a new president in South Korea and what she's specifically looking for is a little more compatibility, that the South Korean president might offer a little more U.S. vision.

"That is specifically why she was in the region -- why she was hoping that Japan, China and South Korea might together be able to push along these six-party talks and get North Korea to denuclearize."

As part of the nuclear pact with South Korea, the United States, Russia, Japan and China, North Korea pledged to disable its main plutonium facility and declare all of its nuclear activities in exchange for fuel aid and better relations with Washington.

There has been very little progress in the talks in the past two months, although North Korea officials say efforts to dismantle the facility continue, but at a slower pace.
Video Watch what's behind the stalled North Korean talks »

The latest rape episode in Japan echoes an incident more than a decade ago that strained relations between Washington and Tokyo. Similar cases have fueled resentment of the U.S. military presence.

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More than 40,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan, most of them on Okinawa. They were placed there under a security alliance after Japan was defeated in World War II.

Locals have long complained about crime, noise, and accidents by the U.S. military, but resentment boiled over in 1995 after a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl was gang-raped by three American servicemen. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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