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Japan’s Suga meets Pentagon chief, focuses on N. Korea, Okinawa

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Thursday met with U.S. acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan at the Pentagon, focusing on North Korea and the realignment of American troops in Japan.


Suga, the top government spokesman and a close aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, held separate talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later Thursday and with Vice President Mike Pence on Friday in Washington.


Through a series of meetings, Suga appears poised to strengthen coordination with the United States toward resolving North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, a priority issue for the Abe government.


His U.S. trip comes hours after North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast. Pyongyang’s action followed its recent launch of other projectiles that possibly included a banned ballistic missile.


Suga is also likely to affirm cooperation with senior U.S officials in promoting a planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture.


The Japanese leader is in charge of the abduction issue as well as measures to reduce Okinawa’s burden in hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.


His three-day visit to Washington and New York through Saturday will include a Friday symposium on the abduction issue at U.N. headquarters and a meeting with financial and business leaders in New York.


It is rare for a chief Cabinet secretary, who is responsible for crisis management, to leave Japan. Suga’s last overseas trip was to Guam in 2015.

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