U.S. President Donald Trump is about to start his first Asia tour, in which he will promote a "free and open Indo-Pacific" and U.S. security and prosperity. His agenda ranges from trade and investment — reflecting his "America First" notion — to security issues such as the North Korean nuclear and missile threats, and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

For Japan, it is encouraging that the Trump administration echoes Tokyo's new vision for the Indo-Pacific region, although Washington's emphasis on bilateralism on trade remains a great concern. But given its urgency, North Korea should be the priority for the Japan-U.S. alliance. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump need to come up with a common strategy to deal with the growing North Korean threat.

Tokyo and Washington share the same goal of denuclearization of North Korea and both emphasize the importance of diplomatic, economic and military pressure, and the two allies reject "dialogue for dialogue." But they do not necessarily share the same approach to achieve their goal. Although it endorses Washington's every-option-on-the-table approach, Tokyo in fact does not welcome the use of force by the United States unless Pyongyang initiates an armed attack on the territories of the U.S. or its allies. Japan is concerned that any strike initiated by Washington would immediately trigger North Korean retaliation on Seoul and Japan.