Japan, U.S. agree on periodic talks over U.S. nuclear umbrella

Japan and the United States agreed Saturday to set up an official framework to engage in periodic talks on the so-called U.S. nuclear umbrella over Japan and other deterrence measures, a senior Japanese official said.

The move reflects the U.S. intention to remove Japan's growing security concerns in the wake of North Korea's nuclear test in May by deepening discussions between the two countries on the effectiveness and reliability of the nuclear umbrella, under which Japan, which does not possess nuclear weapons, is afforded protection.

Through such a move, the United States may also be hoping to defuse arguments among some ruling party members in Japan that the country should arm itself with nuclear weapons.

The agreement was reached at a Security Subcommittee Meeting attended by senior working-level officials from the Japanese foreign and defense ministries and their U.S. counterparts, including visiting Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs.

''We are going to start some briefings soon, very soon, (in the) next several weeks (on the issue). But we will continue that in a more formal way later, subsequently,'' Campbell, who is visiting Japan for the first time since assuming the post in June, told reporters after the meeting.

Meanwhile, on the possibility of holding the so-called five-party talks without North Korea to break the impasse in negotiations on denuclearizing the North, Campbell said that the prospects are ''not clear.''

''The United States has said that we like to see at some point five-party talks in the appropriate circumstances, the appropriate preparation. We are not sure when or if those will occur,'' he said.

The six-party talks, involving North and South Korea, China, Japan, the United States and Russia, have been stalled since December over ways to verify Pyongyang's nuclear activities.

North Korea said it will quit the talks in protest over a U.N. Security Council statement condemning its rocket launch in April, which was widely seen as a disguised missile test. It also conducted its second nuclear test in May.

Campbell is seen as a key envoy for Asian diplomacy under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

During the meeting, Japanese and U.S. officials also agreed on the need to steadily implement a road map to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan, the Japanese Defense Ministry said.

Japan, as the world's only country to have undergone atomic attack, maintains a policy of not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan.

But Japan at the same relies on U.S. nuclear arms for protection, a policy some argue as contradictory.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on July 18, 2009)