US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to reassure Japan on Friday that Washington was mindful of its interests in talks with North Korea, during a stop in Tokyo that underscored the close US ally's concerns about the negotiations.
Japan's defence establishment was taken aback by the US President Donald Trump's recent decision to halt "expensive" military exercises with South Korea that have long been seen in Tokyo as a deterrent to North Korea's threats.
Trump's June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore also did not appear to resolve Japanese security concerns about a missile program.
But Mattis, the most senior US administration official to visit Japan, reaffirmed the US goal of dismantling North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. He said the US-Japan alliance "stands firm."
"We're in the midst of very unprecedented negotiations right now with North Korea. But in this dynamic time, the long-standing alliance between Japan and the US stands firm," Mattis said.
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