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Put away differences, boost military ties, top U.S. military officer tells Japan, South Korea

JIJI

Despite chilly ties between the two Asian giants, Japan and South Korea must boost military cooperation in areas including information-sharing, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. Samuel Locklear, said Tuesday.

It is important that the United States continues articulating to the people of Japan and South Korea that political and social issues causing friction between Japan and South Korea are an impediment to security, from a military perspective, Locklear told a news conference.

“The political issues between South Korea and Japan . . . do have an impact on our ability to conduct a credible military-to-military engagement with each other,” he said.

He cited information-sharing on ballistic missile defense in response to threats by North Korea as the most pressing area.

A Japan and South Korea that “are not able to communicate with each other because of information-sharing restrictions that are of a political nature, not of a military nature, degrade their ability to defend their own airspace, their own nations,” Locklear warned.

He also expressed support for Japan’s move to allow the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

“We’re very proud and I’m proud that they’re doing it in such an open way . . . so the rest of the world can understand it and understand in a way that limits the amount of anxiousness that might occur in the region that we’re in because of some of the historical issues surrounding it,” he said.

Locklear indicated that Japan and the United States are on course to finish a review of their defense-cooperation guidelines by the end of the year.

“I’m confident that we’re not off-course at this point,” he said.