US Secretary of State Rice expresses 'deep regret' over rape

Other News Materials 27 February 2008 16:00 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed "deep regret" Wednesday over the alleged rape of a Japanese teenager by a US service member on the southern island of Okinawa.

During a meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, both leaders agreed to cooperate to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

"The first point that I'd make (in the talks) is that we just regret deeply that this happened," Rice said. "This should not have happened."

"We certainly hope that there will not be lasting effects," she added. "It's a longstanding and strong alliance."

Rice also met with Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura and Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba. They discussed a possible realignment of the US bases in Japan and ways to lessen tensions with North Korea.

The top US diplomat told Ishiba that Japan's commitment to host US military facilities was highly appreciated and Okinawa is "extremely important" for maintaining regional security.

Okinawa hosts the majority of US military personnel in Japan, but repeated crimes committed by the servicemen have prompted anger and protests from local citizens.

Concerning the North Korean issue, Rice stressed the need for a stronger alliance among the "region's three great democratic nations," the US, Japan and South Korea.

Japan and the US reaffirmed their policy to strengthen cooperation to press Pyongyang to stick to its pledge to disable its nuclear facilities in return for energy and economic aid.

Rice said she told US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill to remain in Beijing to continue discussions with Chinese officials on "how to make progress on the six-party talks" which, in addition to the US, the two Koreas and Japan, also include China and Russia.

Hill was initially scheduled to accompany the secretary of state to Tokyo.

"He's continuing the discussions that we had with the Chinese side ... about how to make progress on the six-party talks, how to get to a place that everybody is executing the obligations that they've undertaken," the Kyodo News Agency quoted Rice as saying in Tokyo.

Rice traveled to Beijing and South Korea before arriving for a one-day visit to Tokyo.