The U.S.-Japan "Joint Declaration on Security" issued by President Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto in 1996 reconfirmed that the U.S.-Japan security relationship remains a cornerstone for achieving common security objectives.

In view of the changes of the post-Cold War environment, the U.S. and Japan agreed to cooperate in situations in areas surrounding Japan that will have an important influence on Japan's peace and security.

In September 1997, the U.S. and Japan expanded their security alliance to give the Japanese military its highest profile in Asia since World War II. Under the new agreement, Japan would, for the first time since the war, engage in military activities outside its borders in military conflicts involving the U.S.

At that time, China warned the U.S. and Japan not to place Taiwan under the new security agreement, saying that this would infringe its sovereignty. China said that attempts to embrace Taiwan would disturb other Asian nations. China has never ruled out the use of force on Taiwan.

The U.S. and Japan have repeatedly assured China that their expanded military alliance does not threaten China. Officials in Beijing nevertheless oppose the expanding military alliance as a threat.

Chinese officials protested, for instance, when an official in Hashimoto's government said the new defense guidelines would obligate Japan to become involved if a confrontation erupted between China and Taiwan.

Defending his nation's position, Hashimoto visited China to assure officials that Japan's strategic alliance does not mean that Japan has any plan of containing China.

As PRC Foreign Minister Qian Qichen stated, "At present, the treaty itself has not changed. However, the relevant discussions being held on the meaning of the treaty and the relevant joint statements that have been issued hint that the role of the treaty may be extended to cover the whole region. That is worrisome."

Hashimoto thinks that Qian should not be worried, and he noted, "Japan-U.S. security arrangements are in no sense targeted against any specific country." He said that "the presence of a politically stable, economically prosperous China, bound by ties of trust with the rest of the world, would be in everyone's interest the world over."

These statements echo sentiments expressed publicly to President Jiang Zemin by Hashimoto and Clinton during APEC Meetings in November 1996. The Joint Declaration contains similar recognition of the need to cooperate with China.

At the March National People’s Conference (NPC), Tang Jiaxuan, the Foreign Ministry’s top Japan specialist, was named the new Foreign Minister.

For Japan, the security alliance is a delicate balancing act in its increasingly important and complex three-way relationship with the U.S. and China. Tokyo must constantly weigh its obligations to its closest ally, Washington, against how that relationship is perceived in Beijing.

Ironically, while Asian countries worry about Japan inching away from its purely defensive military posture, some Americans argue that Japan should accept a more equal military partnership with the U. S.

The issues of how to strengthen the dialogue between Beijing, Tokyo, and Washington should now be at the center of American and Japanese discussions on security. The real challenge is how to reduce tensions between China one the one hand and Japan and the U.S. on the other.

The U.S.-Japan alliance can be seen not as anti-China but as pro-peace and pro-stability. It should not take on an anti-China slant unless China presents a clear and present threat to regional stability, and Beijing repeatedly states that it has no such ambitions. The defensive alliance should be seen as promoting Chinese as well as U.S., Japanese, and broader security interests.

Under the new guidelines, Japan would:

* Provide mine sweepers;

* Conduct search and rescue missions in international waters;

* Use military ships to conduct inspections of ships at sea to enforce U.N.-sanctioned embargoes;

* Assist communication and surveillance efforts in international waters and airspace;

* Allow its civilian airports, ports and hospitals to be used by American troops; and

* Accept refugees and noncombatants evacuated from war zones and areas of conflict.

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