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US Defense Secretary Meets With Japan Counterpart

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, left, shakes hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, June 29, 2018.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with his Japanese counterpart Friday in Tokyo to ease Japan’s concerns about America’s commitment to the region amid the ongoing denuclearization negotiations with North Korea.

“We’re in the midst of very unprecedented negotiations right now with North Korea, but in this dynamic time, the longstanding alliance between Japan and the U.S. stands firm,” Mattis said Friday, while standing next to Japan’s defense minister Itsunori Onodera.

“There is absolute reassurance between the two of us that we stand firm.”

Onodera, meanwhile, said Friday the United States has agreed to continue joint military exercises with Japan.

Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the suspension of joint exercises after he held a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling the exercises “ expensive” and “provocative.” North Korea had long called for the drills to stop, indicating fears they were aimed at planning an invasion, which the U.S. and South Korean militaries denied.

Onodera said Friday the drills were “important for the stability of the region.”

The Japanese defense minister said Friday the United States and Japan have to work together to undo “all of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, including biological and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles of all ranges.”

Both Japan and South Korea feel threatened by the North’s nuclear tests.

Mattis was in South Korea Thursday where he reassured that the U.S. commitment to South Korea’s security “remains ironclad.”

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

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