WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Friday he and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed to reinforce their bilateral alliance as the two nations review their respective defense strategies.

They also reaffirmed that Tokyo and Washington will step up cooperation in the field of missile defense in view of the recent rocket launch by North Korea, Hamada told reporters after his meeting with Gates.

Hamada visited Gates at the Defense Department just outside Washington for their first face-to-face meeting.

They had held talks by telephone on April 2 before Pyongyang conducted the supposed satellite launch.

A Japanese official said Hamada and Gates concurred that the bilateral alliance should be further beefed up through consultations on their respective review of defense strategies.

The Japanese government is due to adopt new National Defense Program Guidelines at the end of the year. The Pentagon is slated to conduct its Quadrennial Defense Review next February.

Hamada was also quoted as suggesting Tokyo and Washington discuss the future course of the alliance, alluding to the need for a new Japanese-U.S. Joint Declaration on Security to cope with global issues.

In February, he proposed starting consultations on the new declaration in his talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Tokyo because 2010 will mark the 50th anniversary of the revised Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

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