Mattis’ message to Japan, South Korea: We still have your back

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the leader's office in Tokyo, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. AMBER SMITH/U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the leader's office in Tokyo, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. AMBER SMITH/U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Mattis’ message to Japan, South Korea: We still have your back

by: Erik Slavin | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: February 06, 2017

TOKYO — If the Pentagon named bilateral talks the way it did military operations, Jim Mattis’ first trip abroad as defense secretary might have been deemed Operation Allied Reassurance.

Officials in Japan and South Korea, the United States’ closest treaty allies in the region, each had concerns that America might back away after President Donald Trump’s “America First” campaign rhetoric questioned their contributions to the bilateral alliances.

While some concern remains, Japan largely heard what it wanted from Mattis: a renewed commitment to aid Japan if China ever attacks the contested Senkaku Islands; public praise for the billions of dollars annually that Japan contributes to U.S. forces; and reaffirmation of plans for U.S. military realignment in the region.

In Seoul, Mattis talked of ironclad commitments to security partners and warned North Korea of testing the alliance with South Korea.

Mattis also got some reassurances of his own. Japan hinted at taking on a greater security role when Defense Secretary Tomomi Inada told reporters Saturday the country was ready to “enhance our alliance” in the name of regional stability.

Getting Japan to pay substantially more for U.S. bases is unlikely to happen, security analysts and Japanese lawmakers said.

Japan already spends between $1.65 billion and $1.9 billion annually on hosting U.S. troops, depending on currency exchange rates. It also provides another $1 billion in labor and is spending billions more on a future transfer of servicemembers from Okinawa to Guam.

Read more at: http://www.stripes.com/news/1.452552

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