US defence secretary James Mattis concluded his first foreign trip to South Korea and Japan, where he discussed with his Asian allies North Korea's nuclear programme and China's growing influence in the region.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada (R) attend a joint news conference after their meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, February 4, 2017.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada (R) attend a joint news conference after their meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, February 4, 2017.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis wrapped up a visit to Japan on Saturday reaffirming Washington's commitment to its defence treaty with Tokyo.

Mattis reiterated that provocations by North Korea, which is advancing its nuclear weapons and missile programmes, as well as China's growing assertiveness in the South and East China Seas, left no room for doubt about US commitment to Japan's defence.

That was similar to the message that Mattis making his first overseas trip since taking office delivered in South Korea, Washington's other key Asian ally, earlier in the week.

"The US-Japan alliance is critical to ensuring that this region remains safe and secure - not just now, but for years to come," Mattis told a joint news conference with Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada.

‘On the right track'

Mattis said Tokyo's financial support for US troops in Japan had been a "model of cost-sharing" while Inada told the same news conference there had been no discussion of whether Japan should increase that funding.

Mattis also noted that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has increased defence spending since taking office in December 2012, a move he said was "on the right track."

Japan's defence spending is around one percent of the gross domestic product, compared to about two percent for China and over three percent for the US.

TRT World spoke to Hakura Nuga for more details.

Deeper three-way ties

Mattis also repeated that Donald Trump's administration would adhere to Washington's commitment to defend the disputed East China Sea islands that are under Japanese control but claimed also by China, an assurance that Tokyo has been keen to hear.

Inada said she told Mattis that Japan would play a proactive security role, in line with legal changes enacted under Abe that eased the limits of its pacifist constitution on its military's operations overseas.

At the start of her talks with Mattis, Inada said she hoped his visit to Seoul and Tokyo would deepen three-way security ties. Japan's relations with South Korea have frayed recently due to a feud over wartime history, just as tensions over North Korea make cooperation vital.

"South Korea is an important neighbour," Inada said.

"I want to link Secretary Mattis' visit to Japan and South Korea to the further deepening of defence cooperation among the three countries."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies