Published: Sun, July 01, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Mattis vows 'strong defensive stance' on N. Korea

Mattis vows 'strong defensive stance' on N. Korea

"I note with respect the blue lapel pin you wear, and we're with you", Mattis remarked as he sat down for talks at the defence ministry.

"At the same time, we maintain a strong collaborative defensive stance to ensure our diplomats continue to negotiate from a position of unquestioned strength", he added. He said the US-Japan alliance "stands firm" and undiminished by US-North Korea talks.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis met with his Japanese counterpart in Tokyo and reassured the US's commitment to the countries' partnership as well as the US goal of ending North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

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"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.

Concern has mounted in the region over the stance of the U.S. president, who has lauded North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a "talented guy" as he seeks to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.

Regional allies were caught wrong-footed by Trump's unexpected announcement on June 12 to suspend joint military exercises between the US and South Korea that had previously been seen as a vital measure to contain the North Korean threat. "But in this dynamic time, the longstanding alliance between Japan and the United States stands firm", Mattis said at an appearance with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

Onodera said Mattis agreed to work on the realignment of USA troops in Japan as well as increased safety of aircraft used by American military in the country.

During his appearance with Onodera, Mattis highlighted a pin worn by the Japanese defense minister to commemorate the Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea during the 1970s and 1980s. Japan is directly in the firing line of a belligerent North Korea, which has previously vowed to sink the island nation into the sea and fired two missiles over it previous year, with others splashing into the sea nearby.

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Mattis said the two discussed "the opportunities to increase our alliance capabilities, to deepen our cooperation and to enhance regional security".

Mattis was on the last stop of a week-long trip to Asia, where he offered similar reassurances to South Korea during a brief visit in Seoul on Thursday.

Tokyo's alliance with Washington, including a US military footprint of about 50,000 troops, is a cornerstone of Japan's security strategy.

With more than 28,000 US troops stationed in the South, Mattis said that both nations' forces "remained united, vigilant and ready to defend against any challenge".

Earlier in China, Mattis met with President Xi Jinping and raised concerns about militarization and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Under realignment, the US would transfer several thousand Marines from Okinawa to the American territory of Guam and elsewhere as part of efforts to reduce the impact of the large USA military presence on Okinawa residents.

Mattis described his talks with officials while in China as " very, very" good.

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