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U.S., Japan discuss regional security amid Koreas tension

From Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Japan
  • He's on the second leg of his Asia tour
  • He says North Korea should cease 'its belligerent behavior'

(CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Japanese leaders Thursday to discuss regional security and deepen military ties amid heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Gates is in Japan on the second leg of his Asia tour, including China and South Korea.

"If there is a common theme in my visit, it's a common interest of the United States, Japan, Republic of Korea and China for there to be stability and peace in the Korean Peninsula," Gates said at a joint news conference with Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

"This requires that north ceases its belligerent behavior and its provocation that killed innocent victims -- both military and civilians -- in Korea."

Kitazawa said that the two countries agreed to "accelerate" the discussion on deepening their security alliance.

Japan and the United States are preparing to issue a new alliance vision as early as spring when Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

The two counties aim to create a closer defense alliance with increasing tensions in the Korean Peninsula and China's military buildup in northeast Asia.

"We have agreed that as a part of deepening of our alliance that we need to do more planning together, not just for defense of Japan, but for regional contingencies," Gates said.

"We need the planning to be realistic and effective, and we will pursue it with our counterparts and the ministry of defense."

As a part of the cooperation, the U.S. is asking Japan to allow a provision of jointly-developed advanced interceptor in the missile defense to a third country.

Japan has been refusing the deployment due to its no-export policy on weapons and its technology.

Kitazawa said Japan will decide this year if it will agree to the provision of the interceptor.

Gates showed signs of frustration on the progress of the relocation of U.S. bases in Okinawa, a thorny issue between the two nations. The southern island hosts 75% of U.S. Forces' presence in Japan.

"The issues associated with Futenma and Okinawa have tended to dominate the headlines this past year. The U.S. and Japan defense alliance is broader, deeper and indeed richer than any single issue," Gates said.

Kitazawa said they are looking into transferring U.S. Forces' F15 fighter jet flight exercises from Okinawa to Guam to ease the burden of the local community.

More cooperation is needed from the U.S. to lighten the burden of Okinawa, Kitazawa said.

Gates also met with Prime Minister Naoto Kan Kan and Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara.