Published: Fri, August 18, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Eying North Korea, US and Japan to boost military ties

Eying North Korea, US and Japan to boost military ties

Tillerson declined to comment on Bannon's statements but said pressure on North Korea was stronger than ever and included Pyongyang's ally, China. But both sides seemed to back down this week, and renewed emphasis is being given to diplomatic efforts.

Japan's missile defense program now includes the Maritime Self-Defense Force's (SDF) Aegis destroyers, aimed at shooting down airborne missiles, and the Air Self-Defense Force's PAC-3 system, which is aimed at countering missiles that evade Aegis interceptors.

Tillerson said any diplomatic challenge the US faces "has to be backed by a strong military outcome if North Korea chooses wrongly".

Mr Tillerson said the North Koreans should understand the consequences should they make a bad choice. On the threat of ballistic missiles, as an alliance, we will strengthen our defence posture and capabilities, and respond.

North Korean missiles would have to fly over Japan to reach the Guam area, worrying Tokyo that warheads or missile debris could fall on its territory. Yet this is not the only territorial dispute Japan has, and while not asked directly, Tillerson's commitment to defend Senkaku might also commit the U.S. to support Japan's claims on islands contested with South Korea and Russian Federation as well.

Thursday's statement also addressed the ongoing situation in the South China Sea, where both Japan and the United States have staked out an interest in the preservation of the regional status quo and the maintenance of global law. North Korea views such exercises as preparations to invade it.

The spokesman denied any link between the drill and recent regional tension over North Korea. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the exercises were "not now on the table as part of the negotiation at any level".

The drill took place in those four prefectures, plus the adjoining prefectures of Tottori, Okayama, Yamaguchi, Tokushima and Kagawa.

Animosity between the two countries spiked this month after North Korea warned it might fire missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam in response to warlike rhetoric from Donald Trump. Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China's powerful Central Military Commission, told Dunford that China believed the only effective way to resolve the issue was through talks.

The conference ended with a strong statement condemning North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile tests, but USA officials have had to repeatedly reassure allies that Trump does not intend to escalate an already precarious standoff. Preparations for the rallies often begin months in advance and are usually held on an important anniversary of the party or Kim Jong Un's family. Trump welcomed the delay as "very wise".

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