Japan’s role in the Iraq war and US beef exports are expected to be on the agenda when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, one of President George W. Bush’s closest allies, visits the White House on June 29.

Issues on the agenda include “the war on terror, defending freedom and democracy, promoting regional security and prosperity in Asia and enhancing closer cooperation on global economic issues,” White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters.

Koizumi, whom Bush has described as one of his best friends in the international community, is set to step down in September. He has been a staunch supporter of Bush on the Iraq war despite its unpopularity in his own country.

Media reports have suggested that Japan may begin withdrawing some of the roughly 600 troops it has in Iraq as early as next month.

Japan and the United States earlier this month reached an agreement earlier this month on ways to strengthen their security alliance.

On the economic front, one topic Bush likely will raise is Washington’s aim of restarting beef exports to Japan, which along with many Asian countries closed its borders to US beef when the United States found its first case of mad cow disease in December 2003.

After lifting the ban in December last year, Japan reimposed it a month later after its inspectors discovered banned bone fragments in a shipment of US veal.

Talks to resume trade once more are ongoing, but US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said on May 23 that Japan had been very specific in avoiding a time frame. (Reuters)