South Korea’s defense minister signaled the country may strengthen its military cooperation with rival Japan as the two U.S. allies work to boost regional security against threats like the ones posed by North Korea.

Suh Wook, who held talks last week with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on their debut trip abroad since taking office, said Seoul considers Japan as one of its crucial security partners and wants to continue its cooperation with the neighbor in partnership with the U.S.

"What is protecting the Korean Peninsula is centered around the Korea-U.S. alliance, but we believe the Korea-Japan security cooperation is also a valuable asset, which is why we need to maintain this,” Suh said in a Bloomberg Television interview, a day after finishing talks with the U.S. envoys.