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Abe, U.S. commander affirm cooperation on tackling N. Korea threat

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris confirmed Thursday that the two countries will cooperate closely with each other as well as with South Korea in dealing with the North Korean nuclear and missile threat, the Japanese government said.

 

At the outset of their meeting in the prime minister’s office, Abe hailed the recent visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to Japan, saying the two leaders successfully demonstrated the strong bond between the two countries.

 

Abe and Trump reiterated their pledge to apply the maximum possible pressure on Pyongyang to force it to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile development programs in their meeting last week in Tokyo, the first stop of Trump’s five-nation Asian tour.

 

In his meeting with Harris, Abe said, “As we are facing an increasingly severe security environment in the Asia-Pacific region, we would like to deepen our close cooperation to further enhance our response capability and deterrence under the Japan-U.S. alliance.”

 

Abe and Harris also agreed to jointly promote cooperation with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for stability and prosperity in a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region — an initiative Abe has been pursuing, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

 

They also agreed to make efforts to reduce the burden borne by local municipalities hosting U.S. military facilities in Japan, including Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of them, it said.

 

The commander underlined the significance of a recent joint naval exercise in the Sea of Japan, saying it was “an example of how our militaries work together.”

 

The two allies conducted the drill on Sunday involving three of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers and three destroyers from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, part of a U.S. strike force exercise amid the growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

 

North Korea has stepped up its development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, in defiance of repeated international warnings.

 

In September, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over northern Japan into the Pacific Ocean.

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