The new head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has made Tokyo his first destination after taking up his post, meeting with top Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in yet another signal of strengthening security ties amid concerns over Chinese military assertiveness.

Adm. John Aquilino, who was confirmed by the Senate on April 30, told Suga at the outset of their meeting that making Japan the first stop on his trip, which will also take him to South Korea, was “extremely important.”

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