The United States definitely put its focus on strengthening its relationship with Japan, having a two-plus-two dialog in Washington, D.C. between both countries' top diplomats and defense officials (full text of the press conference here).
It is a very good diplomatic and military signal to have such high level talks with one of America's strongest Asian democratic allies. The updating of the US-Japan Security Alliance, that was formalized yesterday (prior DEL post here), is a bold statement to China while the US and Japan both seek China to take a strict stance with the wayward North Korea. Japan spends roughly the same amount on their Japanese Self Defense Force "JSDF" as China (Japan is ranked 4th to China's 2nd or 3rd place, depending on ranking). More information on the JSDF can be found here and here.
What is amazing about the event is its timing. US diplomacy of old would have kept such a meeting until after China had given the message of displeasure to the North Koreans. On another level, the announcement comes on the 60th anniversary (good post from Michelle Malkin here) of the Marines taking of Iwo Jima. I give both Pacific democracies credit for supporting freedom by making a strong public stance together in word and in treaty. This puts teeth to President Bush's focus on democracy.
While China is displeased with US-Japanese coordination on Taiwan, the US must feel that China is so concerned with North Korea's nuclear program that a diplomatic slight like this will not be returned by the Chinese over North Korea as it applies pressure to have the North Koreans rejoin the six-party talks. This demonstrates a maturing of the relationship (allowing multiple angles of diplomacy that are unlinked). Truly this is a good sign on multiple fronts.
UPDATE: For more analysis on Sec. Rice's recent European-Middle East tour see these posts here.