Abe, Esper Agree On N.korea Denuclearization

Abe, Esper agree on N.Korea denuclearization

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper have agreed to closely coordinate policies on North Korea's complete denuclearization.

The meeting took place at the Prime Minister's Office in Tokyo on Wednesday. Esper is on his first visit to Japan since assuming his post in July.

Abe said the Japan-US alliance is stronger than ever before. He said he hopes to further strengthen the alliance and continue the two countries' cooperation to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Esper said the bilateral alliance is ironclad and critical to a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific.

The two exchanged views over North Korea, which has recently repeatedly launched short-range ballistic missiles and other projectiles. They confirmed that Japan and the United States will continue closely coordinating their policies toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

Abe asked for the US government's cooperation in resolving at an early date the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea. Esper indicated that the US will support Japan's efforts.

The two agreed to steadily promote the realignment of US forces in Japan, which includes the relocation of US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City to a lesser-populated area of Henoko district in Nago City, both in the southern Prefecture of Okinawa. The realignment is, in part, aimed at reducing the prefecture's burden of hosting US bases.

On the previous day, the US defense chief had hinted to reporters that he may ask Japan to join a US-proposed maritime mission to ensure the safety of ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who held separate talks with Esper, told reporters that they did not discuss the topic.