• Kyodo

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Japan approves of United States-led airstrikes in the fight against Islamic State militants and supports a coalition headed by Washington, Tokyo’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Japan “understands the U.S. move is intended to prevent the situation from getting even worse,” said Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, referring to U.S.-led bombing of targets in Syrian territory.

He was speaking to reporters in New York after talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

“We support the international community’s fight against ISIL,” he said, referring to the group also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, a day after the launch of the U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria, an action Russia condemned for lacking both Syrian government consent and authorization by the U.N. Security Council.

The top Japanese and U.S. diplomats spent much of their time discussing the Islamic State militants and the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

They also touched on issues such as the situation in Ukraine and regional matters in East Asia, according to a Foreign Ministry official who briefed reporters on the meeting.

Kerry explained reasons behind the U.S.-led air assault and expressed appreciation for Japan’s support in the response to the Islamist militant group, the official said.

Kishida also indicated Tokyo would continue providing humanitarian support to Iraq and its neighbors. “We will make efforts within the scope we can operate,” he told reporters.

On Ukraine, struggling with pro-Russia separatists in the east, Kishida and Kerry agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in efforts to stabilize the situation as soon as possible, along with other Group of Seven partners — Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Italy.

Japan is considering expanding sanctions against Russia to step up pressure on Moscow to defuse tensions in Ukraine, after the United States and the European Union toughened their sanctions, said Japanese government sources.

Tokyo’s new measures could extend to Russia’s energy sector as well as its financial services, in addition to the current freeze on the assets held in Japan by several dozen Russian officials, the sources said.

As for the spread of Ebola, Kerry and Kishida agreed on the need for the international community to work together in containing the epidemic. Kerry expressed gratitude for Japan’s efforts, including financial aid to the World Health Organization, according to the Japanese briefer.

Turning to North Korea, Kishida said he updated Kerry on the status of ongoing talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang over the issue of Japanese nationals abducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

Kishida and Kerry agreed that the two nations will continue efforts toward seeking a comprehensive resolution of the abduction, nuclear weapons and missile development issues, the briefer said.

On South Korea and China, Kishida said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to start repairing strained ties by holding direct talks with both nations’ leaders.

Relations have foundered over territorial matters and historical grievances, such as so-called “comfort women,” Asian females forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during the wartime period.

Kishida and Kerry also touched on their bilateral defense partnership. “We also confirmed cooperation toward compiling a midterm report on Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines,” by early October, Kishida said.

Kishida and Kerry previously held a bilateral meeting last month in Myanmar on the margin of meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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