News Desk |
The US-Japan alliance is vital to peace in Asia and Washington remains committed to the partnership as it pursues diplomacy with North Korea, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said in Tokyo Friday.
Mattis, speaking after talks with his Japanese counterpart, also pledged Washington would maintain a “strong collaborative defensive stance” regionally despite halting joint military drills with South Korea.
Read more: Pentagon chief seeks to reassure S. Korea, Japan on North Korea
“The US-Japan alliance is a cornerstone of Indo-Pacific stability and our commitment to this alliance remains ironclad,” Mattis said alongside Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera.
He said Washington was pausing its joint exercises with South Korea “to create space for our diplomats to negotiate strongly and increase the prospect for a peaceful solution on the peninsula.”
“At the same time, we maintain a strong collaborative defensive stance, to ensure our diplomats continue to negotiate from a position of unquestioned strength.”
Washington’s decision to halt the exercises after an unprecedented summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un surprised officials and observers in the region.
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US officials have tried to calm fears that the move suggested a weakening of Washington’s commitment to the security of its regional allies, particularly Japan and South Korea.
Mattis is in Tokyo Friday on the third leg of a regional trip that has taken him to China and South Korea.
In Seoul he told officials that Washington’s commitment to South Korea “remains ironclad,” and said that included “maintaining the current US force levels on the Korean peninsula.”