June 23, 2006


Many Japanese in the aftermath of the Cold War seriously questioned their country's security alliance with the United States. A decade later, those voices are a lot softer, and one nation deserves much of the credit: North Korea.

The fears this week that the mercurial communist regime is preparing for its first test of a long-range missile since 1998 have again illustrated one of the premier rationales for Tokyo's enduring partnership with Washington.

Military ties between the two are already tight.

Another reason, you'd think, why the Chinese would want to keep the North Koreans on a shorter leash. And there's this:

Japan and Washington agreed Friday to strengthen cooperation on missile defense amid concerns of a possible long-range rocket launch by North Korea, as U.S. forces wrapped up massive Pacific war games in a show of military might.

The five days of exercises _ the largest in the Pacific since the Vietnam War _ brought together three aircraft carriers along with 22,000 troops and 280 warplanes off Guam in the western Pacific.

The exercise "was a demonstration of the U.S. Pacific Command's ability to quickly amass a force ... and project peace, power and presence in the region," Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told The Associated Press.

Like I said.