U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney plans to spurn meetings with Japan's defense minister next week in protest over his having called the American-led Iraq war a "mistake," a news report said Monday.
Cheney is to meet top officers in Japan's Self-Defense Forces during a visit starting Feb. 20 but has asked Japan not to schedule any talks with Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, Kyodo News agency said.
Late last month, Kyuma told reporters the decision to invade Iraq was a "mistake" because it was based on the erroneous assumption that Saddam Hussein's government had weapons of mass destruction.
Kyuma later backtracked, saying he meant that the decision to attack Iraq should have been thought through more cautiously.
"I did not say it was a mistake, but I thought at the time (the U.S.) should have been more cautious," Kyuma said.
In Washington, Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, said the vice president's schedule was filled before he received any invitation from Kyuma to meet.
"He is looking forward to a full day of meetings in Japan, including meetings with the emperor, the prime minister, the chief Cabinet secretary and the foreign minister," McBride said. "This schedule was set in advance of receiving a request from the defense minister."
Japan sent ground troops to southern Iraq on a humanitarian mission after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, but the Japanese contingent was pulled out last year. Japan currently operates airlifts in the region in support of the U.S.-led forces, a mission set to end in July.
Despite U.S. President George W. Bush's plan to boost troop numbers in Iraq, Japan will not hastily decide whether to continue providing the airlifts, Kyuma said.
Cheney, a strong advocate of Iraq's invasion, is expected to meet top Japanese military officials as well as U.S. military officers based in Japan, Kyodo said.
Foreign Ministry officials were not immediately available to comment on the report.
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