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New US envoy reassures Japan over security pact
by Staff Writers
Narita, Japan (AFP) Aug 17, 2017


Top American general says attack on Japan same as on US
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 18, 2017 - The United States' most senior military officer on Friday said North Korea understands that an any attack on Japan is equal to one on the US itself -- and vice versa.

General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held talks with his Japanese counterpart at the defence ministry in Tokyo, wrapping up a regional tour during heightened tensions with North Korea.

Tokyo remains on alert against potential military provocations by Pyongyang after North Korea threatened to fire missiles towards the Pacific island of Guam, US territory, which would have flown over Japan.

"I think we made it clear to North Korea and anyone else in the region that an attack on one is an attack on both of us," Dunford told Katsutoshi Kawano, Chief of Staff of Japan's Self-Defence Forces.

"And that's very, very important for deterrence," added Dunford, who visited South Korea and China before arriving in Japan.

Dunford added that the US reaffirmed its "ironclad commitment" to the security of Japan on Thursday when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held talks with their Japanese counterparts in Washington.

Japan frequently demands -- and receives -- US reassurances over its commitment to defend its ally.

The US and Japan, adversaries in World War II, have forged a decades-long defence alliance and the US stations tens of thousands of troops in the country.

Washington has long encouraged Japan to take on more defence responsibility even though the country is militarily constrained by a US-written constitution imposed after the end of World War II.

In 2015 nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed contentious security bills through parliament that expand what Japan can do to help its ally, such as coming to the aid of US troops under attack.

Dunford is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later in the day.

During his visit to China, Dunford said peace with North Korea is a "possibility", but warned the US has "credible, viable military options" for dealing with the errant regime.

The US and North Korea have been engaged in heated verbal sparring since Trump warned Pyongyang that it faced "fire and fury" if it continued to threaten the US and other countries with its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea responded that it was ready to aim a missile at the American territory Guam, an operation that has since been suspended.

The new US ambassador to Japan on Thursday reassured the country of an "ironclad" commitment to their security alliance, but urged Tokyo to step up its role in the pact, amid heightened tensions over North Korea's missile threats.

Tokyo remains on alert against potential military provocations by Pyongyang after North Korea threatened to fire missiles towards the Pacific island of Guam, US territory, which would have flown over Japan.

Bill Hagerty, appointed by President Donald Trump, arrived at Narita airport near Tokyo to take up his post and said he envisions Japan expanding its activities in its decades-long defence relationship with the US.

"I... expect to see further involvement of Japan, and further responsibility and authority of Japan in their role as part of this important alliance," Hagerty said, though did not elaborate.

The United States, which stations tens of thousands of troops in the country, has long encouraged Japan to take on more defence responsibility even though the country is militarily constrained by a US-written constitution imposed after the end of World War II.

In 2015 nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed contentious security bills through parliament that expand what Japan can do to help its ally, such as coming to the aid of US troops under attack.

The legislation was controversial given the still strong pacifist leanings of many Japanese and resulted in rare large-scale street protests in front of the parliament building and Abe's office.

Trump stoked concerns in Japan during his run for the Oval Office by suggesting Tokyo was not paying its fair share for the huge US military presence, hinting that he might pull American troops and saying Japan should even consider having its own nuclear deterrent.

That struck a raw nerve for many Japanese, whose country suffered two US atomic bomb attacks at the closing days of the war in 1945.

Trump later walked back the comments and he and top officials including James Mattis, defence secretary, have consistently reiterated Washington's commitment to Japan's defence and praised Tokyo's financial support for US troops.

Hagerty also made a point of driving home that message, reassuring Tokyo about his country's commitment to its security amid tensions over North Korea's weapons programmes.

"US ability to defend our allies like Japan is beyond question," he said. "Our alliance with Japan is ironclad."

Hagerty, founder of a private equity firm, spent three years in Japan working at a business consulting company.

He succeeds Caroline Kennedy, the sole surviving child of assassinated president John F. Kennedy. She was a popular envoy and was welcomed to Japan with movie-star fanfare.

SUPERPOWERS
India, China troops in high-altitude clash: officials
Srinagar, India (AFP) Aug 16, 2017
Indian and Chinese troops clashed briefly on a disputed area of land in the Himalayas, officials said Wednesday, exacerbating tensions during a months-long stand-off between the two armies. Chinese troops threw stones at Indian soldiers near Pangong Lake, a major tourist attraction in the picturesque mountain region of Ladakh on Tuesday, an Indian defence official said. He said Chinese s ... read more

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