In a meeting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis co-hosted with their Japanese counterparts, America’s top diplomat and senior military leader reaffirmed America’s “ironclad commitment” to the mutual defense of its allies in the Pacific.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera joined the two American officials at the Security Consultative Committee meeting in Washington D.C. on Thursday. Their discussion centered on finding ways to increase military coordination between the U.S. and Japan, amid an evolving regional security environment that includes the potential for war with North Korea. Many were concerned that the U.S. and Kim Jong-un’s regime were on the brink of war in recent weeks, thanks to a shift to a more aggressive tone in statements coming from President Trump’s administration. It would seem, however, that the tactic worked, in that North Korea’s Supreme Leader chose to shelve his plans for a missile test in the direction of Guam.
“We’ve completed warm and very productive, detailed conversations about the situation facing our nations, and we’ve achieved very highly useful results,” Mattis said about the morning’s meeting.
Chairman of the U.S.’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford doubled down on Mattis and Tillerson’s statements as he arrived in Japan to meet with the Chief of Staff of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano.
This is a very important time for security in the region and of course we are mostly focused on the threat coming out of North Korea,” Dunford said. “I think we have made it clear to North Korea and anyone else in the region that an attack on one is an attack on both of us.”
Back in Washington, Mattis took to the microphone to make it clear that the United States “never takes an alliance for granted,” adding that events like Thursday’s Security Consultative Committee meeting serves to reaffirm trust between the two nations, while serving to deepen and broaden their combined military efforts in the Pacific.
“The international community is speaking with one voice: North Korea must stop its dangerous actions as we work to maintain security and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula,” Mattis said. He went on to make it clear that he understands war with North Korea would pose an immediate and significant threat to the people of both Japan and South Korea.
“In light of this serious situation we face,” the secretary said, “we are accelerating implementation of the 2015 guidelines for the U.S.-Japan defense cooperation and continue to realign U.S. forces in Japan and Guam.”
Tillerson also emphasized the importance of not only developing and maintaining the relationship between the U.S. and Japan, but broadening it to incorporate other nations in the region.
The United States will honor our treaty agreements with Japan without reservation, whether in times of peace or in the face of conflict.” Tillerson said. “We will also cooperate to advance trilateral and multilateral security and defense cooperation with other partners in the region, notably the Republic of Korea, Australia, India, and other southeast Asian countries.”
Japan’s Foreign Minister also echoed a regular U.S. talking point regarding the pursuit of a diplomatic solution to tensions on the Korean Peninsula: the need for China to leverage its sizable influence over North Korea to work toward that end.
China must fully and strictly implement – we would like to encourage China to strictly and fully implement these measures after the 15th.” Kono said of U.N. sanctions against North Korea. “Oil and steel and seafood – China announced that it would restrict importation of this. As we saw an agreement to encourage a specific action by North Korea, we will work on China to take responsible and constructive action, and we would like to continue to seek that China do this.”
Image courtesy of the Dept. of Defense