Japan's top government spokesperson has sought to play down a remark by the new US defense secretary that US allies must contribute more equitably to ensure global security.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Friday he believes Mark Esper was speaking in general about role-sharing. He declined to comment further.
Esper made the remark in a speech at the Pentagon when he took up his post. Observers say he is apparently calling on Japan and other US allies to increase their defense spending.
Suga said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump affirmed in their joint statement in 2017 that the Japan-US alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity and freedom in the Asia-Pacific region.
Suga added that when Trump visited Japan in May, the leaders agreed that the alliance is stronger than ever, and the closest one in the world.