Mattis reassures uneasy Japan over US-North Korea talks

02 July, 2018, 07:44 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis left shakes hands with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo before their meeting in Seoul South Korea Thursday

Mattis said the U.S. acknowledges that this is a serious humanitarian issue and will bring it up in future talks with the North.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera met with US Defense Secretary James Mattis in Tokyo for the first time since the historic US-North Korea summit talks this month.

After their meeting, Onodera said they agreed to continue joint military exercises and reinforce the response capability of the U.S. -Japan alliance.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis offered solidarity with Japan on Friday over Japanese abductees being held in North Korea, as he sought to reassure the close US ally that Washington was mindful of its interests during talks with Pyongyang.

The pin commemorates their abductions, and Japan has argued for their release to be part of the ongoing negotiations with Pyongyang.

Speaking alongside Song, Mattis read a lengthy statement reinforcing America's "ironclad" commitment to Seoul, adding that "the US will continue to use the full range of diplomatic and military capabilities to uphold this commitment".

"We shared our understanding of the situation in the East and South China seas and once again we affirmed that Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. security treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands".

"At the same time, we maintain a strong collaborative defensive stance to ensure our diplomats continue to negotiate from a position of unquestioned strength".

Mattis was in South Korea Thursday where he reassured that the USA commitment to South Korea's security "remains ironclad".

His message appeared aimed at putting to rest any rumblings that the US would pull its forces off the peninsula - a possibility that gained momentum when President Donald Trump said after his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he'd like to remove all 28,500 USA troops from South Korea.

"Our objective remains the complete, irreversible and verifiable dismantling of North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs", Mattis said at a press briefing after meeting Japan's defence minister Itsunori Onodera in Tokyo.

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"We are not going to take our alliance with another democratic and free nation into account in this separate negotiation, so it stands firm", he said.

Mattis noted that Japan's Onodera was wearing a lapel pin worn in remembrance of the Japanese abducted by North Korea to train its spies.

Song said the North Korean leader's recent separate meetings with Trump and with South Korean President Moon Jae-in have laid the foundation for a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

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 Hokkaido a year ago, with others splashing into the sea nearby.

Recognise the importance of Japanese abductee issue.

Underscoring the point, he presented a blue tie with a Pentagon motif to Onodera, telling him "to remember you have a friend in the Pentagon".

However, US officials stressed this did not undermine Mattis's effort to rescue the fraying relationship between the two militaries.

Aircraft safety has been an increasing issue.

Both countries have security alliances with the USA guaranteed by treaty, but have been thrown off-balance by Trump's quick moves on negotiations with Kim.

"So, there are a lot of things that still need to be worked on", he told Mattis.

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