US, Japan defense chiefs affirm security pact Trump questioned

YOKOSUKA: U.S. military personnel stand in front of the USS Wasp aircraft carrier ahead of the Memorial Day address by President Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, on May 28. Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Top Japanese and American military officials affirmed a commitment to their joint security pact hours after a Bloomberg News report said President Donald Trump has privately mulled ending the long-standing treaty that has been a pillar of regional security.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya held talks over the phone Tuesday and agreed to "work together to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance," Japan's Defense Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

Officials in Tokyo said there were no plans to review the alliance and that they had received assurance from the White House about the pact's stability, after the report said Trump has recently mused to confidants about withdrawing from the treaty, his latest complaint about what he sees as unfair U.S. security pacts.

Pentagon officials were not immediately available to comment on the Japanese statement, which also said that Iwaya and Esper agreed to work toward the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.

Trump is due to arrive soon in Osaka, Japan, for the Group of 20 leaders summit that starts Friday. The U.S. leader will then travel to South Korea for a visit expected to provide a new push on nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea, which largely ground to a halt after the collapse of his February summit with Kim Jong Un.

North Korea sees Japan as its sworn enemy and has threatened to use its nuclear arsenal to sink its neighbor into the sea. The U.S. positions tens of thousands of troops in Japan, in part to deter North Korea.

Trump sees the accord with Japan as too one-sided because it promises U.S. aid if Japan is ever attacked, but doesn't oblige Japan's military to come to America's defense, according to three people familiar with the matter. The treaty, signed more than 60 years ago, forms the foundation of the alliance between the countries that emerged from World War II.

Exiting the pact would jeopardize an alliance that has helped guarantee security in Asia-Pacific, laying the foundation for the region's economic rise. Under the terms of its surrender in World War II, Japan agreed to a pacifist constitution in which it renounced the right to wage war.

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