The top U.S. general and his Japanese counterpart have agreed to work together to strengthen missile defenses for Japan, as Tokyo announced that they will introduce the land-based Aegis Ashore system for additional protection against the North Korean missile threat.
General Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a small group of reporters in Tokyo that his meetings with Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaffirmed the "extraordinarily healthy military-to-military relationship" between Japan and the United States.
Watch: Top US General Commits to Work With Tokyo to Strengthen Missile Defense
"I think this is probably about as important a place that I could be … in the wake of recent activity by Kim Jong Un, making sure our allies have no confusion at all about where we are in our overall policy [and] where we are with regards to the military dimension of that policy," Dunford said Friday.
Dunford was visiting Japan after talks with Chinese and South Korean leaders in Beijing and Seoul earlier in the week. He said he offered Abe some of the perspectives picked up during his time in China, while also focusing on the challenge of North Korea and the trilateral efforts that the U.S., Japanese and South Korean militaries needed to deal with the threat.
"I think it's important that allies and friends have complete transparency, so I wanted him to know the nature of my conversations in China," Dunford explained.
New defense system
The Aegis Ashore will provide an additional land-based missile defense system on the archipelago nation.
Japan’s current ballistic missile defense system uses Aegis warships equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors that are used to stop missiles in the outer atmosphere. If those SM-3 interceptors miss, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air guided interceptor missiles can be launched from Japan to defend against missile attacks.
Watch: Dunford in Japan Reaffirms Commitment to Region
The U.S. is bound by treaty to defend Japan from outside attacks against the allied country.
Japan’s Defense Ministry says it will seek funding in the next fiscal year to cover system-design costs, after expediting the decision to deploy the Aegis Ashore amid the latest series of ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang. North Korea test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, each of which landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.