Japan and the United States on Friday confirmed their cooperation on North Korea as the reclusive state rebuffs calls to resume denuclearization negotiations.
In a meeting in Tokyo, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi stressed to visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun the need to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance in an ever-changing security environment.
“It is crucial that Japan and the United States work together to maintain and bolster a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
“Under the robust Japan-U.S. alliance, I hope to cooperate on regional issues including the situation in North Korea and common concerns of the international community,” Motegi said during the meeting.
Biegun, who was on a two-day visit to Tokyo after making a stop in Seoul to speak with South Korean officials, replied, “As we face new challenges in this era, it is ever more important for us to work closely together.”
The U.S. special representative for North Korea also met separately with Defense Minister Taro Kono and Shigeru Kitamura, national security adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Relations between the two Koreas have sunken to their lowest level in years following the North’s demolition of an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border in mid-June.
Senior North Korean officials have also lashed out at the United States in recent days, rejecting the possibility of resuming negotiations that have been deadlocked since a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un collapsed in early 2019 over disagreements on sanctions relief.
Kim’s sister and close aide, Kim Yo Jong, issued a statement Friday saying Pyongyang is not willing to arrange another summit this year unless Washington changes its stance.
The United States and its allies in Asia are facing security challenges including China’s growing assertiveness, seen both in its actions in surrounding waters and the enactment of a new national security law in Hong Kong, a move that has drawn criticism as undermining the “one country, two systems” principle, and Beijing’s growing assertiveness in surrounding waters.
Biegun is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Japan since travel restrictions were imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
He and his staff were exempt from the entry ban on people traveling from the United States and South Korea on condition they be tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and avoid contact with members of the public.
He also said he is looking forward very much to having Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a summit meeting of the Group of Seven developed countries that the United States plans to host in late August.
U.S. President Donald Trump proposed holding the meeting in person despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Biegun was scheduled to leave Japan later Friday.