TOKYO – Acting United States Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met in Tokyo on Tuesday to strengthen cooperation and coordinate positions on talks with North Korea.
A day after his visit to South Korea, Shanahan met Abe in a series of meetings focused on the progress of talks for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
At the start of a meeting, Abe stressed the need for the allies to continue to work together with a view to strengthening deterrence and response capabilities for a free and open Indo-Pacific, public broadcaster NHK reported.
Shanahan said that the bilateral alliance has “never been stronger” and reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to supporting Tokyo in resolving the issue of Japanese citizens abducted decades ago by the North Korean regime.
He added that Abe’s “vision of creating a free and open Indo-Pacific will become a reality,” NHK said.
The acting US secretary of defense also met his Japanese counterpart, Takeshi Iwaya, who said the aim of the meetings was to agree on a “concrete direction” that both countries must take to strengthen the alliance, according to the agency.
The meetings take place after US talks with the North Korean regime stalled following the failed summit in Hanoi, and recent missile tests by Pyongyang.
Abe and US President Donald Trump also recently expressed divergent opinions on the tests. While the Japanese leader called the launch of short-range missiles by Pyongyang in early May a clear violation of the United Nation Security Council resolutions, Trump downplayed the gravity of the tests during his Tokyo visit at the end of May, calling them “small weapons.”
During his visit to Seoul on Monday, Shanahan urged North Korea to maintain a productive dialog on nuclear disarmament and emphasized that the only acceptable manner of denuclearization was one which was “complete, verifiable.”
The Hanoi summit in February between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without an agreement after Washington, which wants North Korea’s immediate and full nuclear disarmament, rejected Pyongyang’s proposal of a gradual denuclearization process in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
Following the fresh deadlock in the dialog, Pyongyang has toughened its rhetoric and has also launched short-range missiles twice in an apparent attempt to pressure Seoul and Washington.
Both have opted to respond with restraint in order to keep the dialog open.