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January 19, 2011

Japan to Bolster Alliances in Face of North Korea Threat

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan says his country will "strengthen its relationship" with the United States and South Korea in order to deal with the threats posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

In a major foreign policy speech Thursday, Mr. Kan also said China has "fulfilled an important role in the world" but that he "cannot help but be concerned" about the rapid expansion of its military and maritime activities.

Japan and China engaged in a tense diplomatic standoff last year after a Chinese fishing boat captain was arrested in waters near an island chain claimed by both countries.

Mr. Kan said the security situation in the region remains "very tense" because of North Korea's nuclear arms program and other issues. He said it is "crucial" that a controversial U.S. military base remain in the country "in order to protect Japan's security."

Mr. Kan said Japan will "continue to strongly call on North Korea to stop acts of provocations and dismantle all nuclear weapons and nuclear programs," as it promised to do in 2005.

He confirmed his intention to make a decision by June on whether Japan will join in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major free-trade pact being negotiated by the United States and several other countries.