Tillerson reiterates Trump's North Korea stance as Bannon revelation casts doubt

Joint exercises could send Korea tensions soaring again

In their discussions, Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Foreign Minister Taro Kono reaffirmed their "mutual commitment to confronting threats to regional peace and security", according to the top US diplomat.

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.

The new ambassador said that the U.S. -Japan partnership is "ironclad" and vowed to make it stronger.

In a meeting earlier in the day, Dunford and Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, top officer of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces' (SDF), expressed the importance of the Japanese SDF and the USA military working together to address situation on the Korean Peninsula.

They agreed that the North's missile launches, including two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, are "unacceptable provocations" that "must stop immediately". North Korea has yet to issue a response to the proposal. "Such a path is not in its own best interest, nor in the best interest of any other nation".

Fears about North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programmes have grown in recent weeks.

The four leaders addressed the conference after their two plus two meeting at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, during which the threat posed by North Korea consumed much of their time.

Top US general reaffirms commitment to Japan amid North Korea tensions
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and their Japanese counterparts discussed North Korea at a meeting in Washington on Thursday. But Japan is unlikely to play a meaningful role in instigating talks, said a person familiar with the thinking of Mr.

Abe, for his part, told Dunford that he hopes to work together to further fortify the Japan-U.S. alliance amid concerns about rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Ms Shihoko Goto, senior associate for North-east Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Centre's Asia Programme in Washington, said: "What is clear is that not only is Japan more prepared to take on a proactive role in its defence, but (there is) also affirmation that the United States would. indeed welcome a more defence-focused Japan in the region".

"(Japan and the U.S.) also confirmed their shared commitment to enhance and accelerate cooperation in such areas as bilateral planning, air and missile defense, non-combatant evacuation operations, defense equipment and technology cooperation, intelligence cooperation and information security", a press release from the State Department issued on Thursday reads.

Japan frequently demands - and receives - USA reassurances over its commitment to defend its ally.

Others wondered whether Mr. Trump's bellicose talk this month, including a promise to bring "fire and fury" to North Korea, could spook Japan into distancing itself from the United States.

"I think we have been quite clear as to what the policy and the posture toward North Korea is", Tillerson added. The drill, known as Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, takes place in South Korea.

Easing tensions this week, North Korean media announced that Kim delayed a decision on firing four missiles toward Guam, home to a USA air base and Navy facility.

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