The top USA general restated Washington's "ironclad commitment" to the security of its close Asian ally, Japan, on Friday amid regional tensions over North Korea, telling his counterpart in Tokyo that "an attack on one is an attack on both of us". The news media said that Mr. Ri indicated that North Korea was open to talks with Japan, although Japan's Foreign Ministry declined to confirm those reports.
His remarks fell between President Donald Trump's warning last week that the USA was prepared to respond militarily to Pyongyang's "threats" of an attack, and this week's statement by chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon that North Korea was a "sideshow" to which there was "no military solution".
On Friday, the highest ranking US general reiterated the United States' "ironclad commitment" to the safety and security of its strategic ally, Japan, following escalated tension on the Korean Peninsula over #North Korea's nuclear activities. "The tragedy of war is well enough known, it does not need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic", U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week.
They underscored the importance of cooperating to promote a rules-based worldwide order, taking note of the US' continued commitment to maintain a strong presence in the region and Japan's initiatives demonstrated by its "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy".
"In light of the threat of North Korea, the four of us confirmed the importance of the unwavering U.S. commitment to extended deterrence", Onodera said.
Following the statement, North Korea threatened to strike an area near US Pacific territory of Guam within days, but later said it was prepared to watch US actions in the region "a little more" before ordering the strike.
"We call on North Korea to choose a better path than one of provocation and threats", Mattis said.
Earlier this week, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert answered a similar question with "They know what they should do", without specifying exactly what North Korea needs to do for the USA to begin a dialogue with Pyongyang.
Tillerson and Mattis also used the opportunity to reiterate comments made by Chief of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford on Thursday, in which the Dunford stressed that the U.S. did have military options for dealing with North Korea.
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"I can just assure you that, in close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if [North Korea] initiates hostilities", Mattis confirmed.
The primary US concern is the North obtaining intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the American mainland.
Apart from a developing missile and nuclear program, North Korea has a powerful army with 700,000 active troops and another 4.5 million in the reserves.
One thing that the alliance has to work out is operational issues, said Dr Narushige Michishita from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
If there were any lingering doubts over the United States' commitment to Japan's defence, these were put to bed at this week's Japan-US "two-plus-two" talks. North Korea has used USA military exercises in the region as means of galvanizing its people, claiming that the exercises are dress rehearsals for an impending invasion.
Responding to a question after the "two-plus-two" US-Japan talks, Japanese Defence minister Onodera said that in the event there is an attack on Japan, they will use assets available to them for the missile defence.
"I think the blame is mostly on Kim Jong Un".
"Together, we will deter and if necessary defeat any threat". Japan may further consider possessing aircraft carriers.
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- US, Japan Reaffirm 'Ironclad Commitment' Amid North Korea Tensions