Japanese foreign minister Taro Aso to visit Washington, discuss alliance with Condoleezza Rice

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Aso will visit Washington in early December for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior officials, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Aso, who last met Rice on the sidelines of the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in South Korea, will also meet with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on his three-day trip starting Friday, the ministry said in a statement.

"I hope to discuss strengthening cooperation in a wide range of political, economic and security issues, based on the alliance between the two countries," Aso told reporters Tuesday.

The announcement comes after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stressed the strategic importance of Japan _ where nearly 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed _ during a visit by U.S. President George W. Bush to Japan earlier this month, the AP reports. Aso is also expected to discuss a recent agreement to streamline the U.S. military presence in Japan, as well as the lifting of Tokyo's two-year ban on American beef imports.


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