Vice President Dick Cheney has pledged the United States will do all it can to win the release of three Japanese civilians being held hostage in Iraq.
Mr. Cheney told reporters in Tokyo that the United States wholeheartedly supports Japan's decision to continue its troop deployment in Iraq, despite the hostage taking and political pressure at home.
Meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and other top officials Monday, Mr. Cheney also said the United States remains committed to the planned June 30 handover of sovereignty to a civilian authority in Iraq.
Mr. Cheney is in Japan at the start of a three nation tour of Asia that will also take him to China and South Korea. The trip was originally to focus on North Korea and economic issues such as the Japanese ban on importing U.S. beef, but it has been overshadowed by the spate of hostage takings in Iraq.
Seven Chinese are also being held. Eight South Koreans were taken captive and then released last week.
Information for this report is provided by Reuters and AP.