Japan, U.S. vow to step up defense ties over North Korean provocation


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, have agreed to promote bilateral defense cooperation in the face of North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January and a de-facto ballistic missile launch earlier this month.

In a meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday, the start of which was open to the media, Abe said, “The missile launch by North Korea was not only a direct threat to Japan but also a challenge to the United States.”

Abe said Tokyo wants to increase cooperation with Washington and other members of the international community in taking “very severe action” against Pyongyang, calling for a swift adoption at the U.N. Security Council of a strong and effective sanctions resolution against North Korea.

Harris said the provocation demonstrated the danger of the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and underscored the importance of Japan’s new security laws that opposition parties want to scrap.

He also cited the alliance coordination mechanism established in the revised Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines.

Abe said the two countries underwent close intelligence sharing and operational cooperation at the time of the launch of what North Korea claims was a satellite on a carrier rocket.

Earlier Tuesday, Abe told Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in a separate meeting that he appreciates developments of the strategic relationship between Japan and Australia.

Abe said he wants to upgrade bilateral ties for the sake of peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.

Bishop also stressed the importance of Tokyo-Canberra ties for regional stability. She expressed hope that Abe will visit Australia this year.