US fully committed to Japan, says defence secretary

Tokyo, Feb 4 (IANS) The Defence Secretary of the United States reaffirmed his country’s “100 per cent” commitment to its bilateral military alliance with Japan, in a bid to soften the impact of controversial statements made by US President Donald Trump on the subject.

“The US stands firmly, 100 per cent, shoulder-to-shoulder with you and (the) Japanese people”, Efe news quoted James Mattis as saying in his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday in Tokyo.

Mattis, who flew from South Korea to Japan for a two-day visit, was attempting to tone down the effect of Trump’s remarks from his election campaign, when he had threatened to pull US troops out of the two countries if Tokyo and Seoul did not increase their funding contributions.

The Japan-US defence treaty in question is “as real to us today as it was a year ago,” stressed the defence secretary.

Abe, in turn, told the Pentagon chief that Japan wants to create an unbreakable alliance in the region, where Tokyo is battling China’s growing influence as well as threats from North Korea.

Earlier on Friday, the retired US general held a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Han Min-koo, reaffirming Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to defending its key allies, and to deploying the anti-missile system THAAD on South Korean soil, to intercept any missiles the North may launch.

Mattis’ trip to Japan and South Korea is the first official visit abroad by a member of the Trump cabinet, a clear sign of the new administration’s intention of retaining key allies in the Asia-Pacific region.