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Japan, U.S. united on N. Korea threat

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Tokyo on Thursday.

The Yomiuri Shimbun / The Japan NewsForeign Minister Fumio Kishida and visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday agreed to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance to address the nuclear and missile threats posed by North Korea through its repeated provocations.

In a ministerial meeting held at the Foreign Ministry’s Iikura Guest House in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Thursday afternoon, Kishida and Tillerson agreed to expedite scheduling of a Security Consultative Committee — the so-called two-plus-two meeting of the foreign and defense chiefs of both countries — to start considering concrete steps to enhance the alliance as soon as possible.

Tillerson later held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during which he stated his intention to maintain close cooperation with Japan. Abe said Tillerson’s visit to Japan was “timely,” when North Korea is continuing provocations and tension is mounting in the region.

At the opening of the ministerial meeting, Kishida welcomed Tillerson, saying, “Choosing Japan as your first place to visit [as secretary of state] demonstrates the importance [the United States] places on the [Japan-U.S.] alliance.” In response, Tillerson stated that the Japan-U.S. alliance “remains the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.”

The secretary of state also stressed that bilateral cooperation and trilateral cooperation including South Korea are “critical in addressing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.”

The two sides shared the view that China should play a vital role in making North Korea comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions.

With regard to China accelerating maritime advances in the East and South China seas, the two sides agreed to work together to secure stability in the region.

On March 6, North Korea simultaneously fired four ballistic missiles into the ocean off Japan, one of which landed in the Sea of Japan about 200 kilometers north of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture. This is deemed to be the closest any North Korean missile has ever come to the four main islands of Japan.

The North conducted two nuclear tests and more than 20 missile launches last year.

In response to the series of provocations by North Korea, the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump is in the process of reviewing its policies toward the reclusive state.

At a press conference held after the ministerial meeting, Kishida said the two sides agreed to make their respective policies toward North Korea congruous, but did not refer to the details of what was explained by Tillerson about the U.S. review. Tillerson said U.S. policy toward North Korea in the past 20 years has been a “failed approach.”

With regard to the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, the two sides reconfirmed their position that the current plan to relocate it to the Henoko district in Nago in the same prefecture is “the only solution.”

In his first tour of East Asia, the secretary of state will move on to Seoul on Friday, and then to Beijing on Saturday. One of his chief tasks in China will be to arrange a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the United States for a meeting with the U.S. president.Speech

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