Japan's Chief Govt. Spokesperson To Visit Us

Japan's chief govt. spokesperson to visit US

Japan's top government spokesperson will visit the United States later this week for talks with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga will leave on a four-day trip on Thursday. He is also minister for resolving abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea, and for mitigating the impact of US military forces in Okinawa.

Suga is expected to discuss with US officials how to deal with North Korea following the country's test-launch of projectiles on Saturday. He plans to reaffirm closer cooperation toward the North's complete abandonment of nuclear arms and missiles.

He also plans to convey Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's intention to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions to resolve the abduction issue. He will seek US support for an early resolution of the matter.

The Japanese government says North Korean agents abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s. Five were repatriated after a bilateral summit in 2002, but the rest remain unaccounted for.

Suga's visit comes as Japan's central government remains at loggerheads with the government of the southern prefecture of Okinawa over the relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.

Tokyo and Washington want to move the base from a densely populated area to a less crowded coastal district.

They say that is the only way to reduce safety hazards for nearby residents while maintaining the deterrence capacity of the Japan-US alliance.

But the Okinawa governor opposes the plan and wants the base moved out of the prefecture altogether.

Suga plans to reaffirm that Japan and the US will steadily take steps to reduce Okinawa's burden from hosting the bases, and to realign US forces in Japan for an early return of the Futenma base site.

Suga will also deliver a speech in New York on the abduction issue. It is rare for a chief cabinet secretary -- who is in charge of government crisis management -- to leave Japan on official business. Suga's last official trip was about three and a half years ago.