WASHINGTON – The Japanese and U.S. national security advisers agreed Friday to boost mutual cooperation to deal with issues in East Asia, such as North Korea’s nuclear threat, a Japanese government official said.
Shotaro Yachi, a close aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and head of the secretariat of Japan’s new national security council, and his U.S. counterpart, Susan Rice, reached the agreement during a meeting in Washington.
Yachi and Rice “agreed to frequent regular communications between the two National Security Councils,” according to the White House.
Yachi, a former vice foreign minister of Japan, also met with Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel the same day.
Yachi told reporters he discussed “various issues” with Kerry, including the situation in East Asia, but declined to go into further detail.
The Japanese official in Yachi’s delegation suggested Abe’s contentious visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, as well as convicted war criminals, was not a major topic in the meetings.
The official declined to say whether Yachi and the U.S. officials discussed China’s claim to the Japan-controlled Senkaku islets in the East China Sea and Beijing’s establishment of an air defense identification zone over the waters.
The U.S. Defense Department said Hagel “expressed appreciation” for Japan’s efforts in securing the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa.
Yachi and Hagel endorsed “a forward-looking revision” of the bilateral defense cooperation guidelines that will enable Japan to take a more active role in promoting regional peace and stability, the Pentagon said.
The Japanese and U.S. governments plan to revise the defense cooperation guidelines by the end of this year with a focus on the extent to which the roles of the Self-Defense Forces can be expanded under the war-renouncing Constitution.
The establishment by Japan of a U.S.-style national security council is a pillar of Abe’s bid to map out crisis management and security policies more effectively and speedily.
Yachi will visit Britain, Germany and Belgium — which has the headquarters of NATO — and France from Sunday to Friday to promote the aims of the security council and Japan’s readiness to share more intelligence with the countries, according to the Japanese government.
After the European countries Yachi will visit India from Jan. 25 to 28 and join Abe, who is expected to visit the country around that time, in bilateral security talks there.