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Japan seeks to work with Philippines, South Korea to boost regional security

TOKYO, April 8 ------Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he wanted to cooperate with South Korea and the Philippines, allies shared with the US, and even engage with North Korea to promote regional security. "The current security environment is tough and complex, and we are at a turning point in history," Kishida said in a group interview. "Cooperation between Japan and the United States and like-minded countries is a very important issue," he added.

The Japanese leader spoke ahead of a planned summit next week with US President Joe Biden, as the allies look for ways to counter China's growing influence in Asia and deter it from resorting to military action to resolve its disputes in the region. The state visit to Washington, the first by a Japanese leader in nine years, is meant to showcase their close security and economic ties, with the two leaders expected to discuss cooperation on defense equipment and a possible upgrade in the US military command structure in Japan. That meeting will be followed by a trilateral summit with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. "Close cooperation between Japan, the U.S., and the Philippines is crucial for a free and open order based on the rule of law and for economic prosperity in the region," Kishida said.

Japan last year delivered four air defense radars to the Philippines and is negotiating a reciprocal access agreement with Manila that would make it easier for Japanese troops to train there. A separate trilateral meeting between Kishida, Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in the US last year helped Tokyo mend relations with Seoul and bolster security cooperation. Kishida has said he is also willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "without any preconditions" in a bid to improve strained relations with the nuclear-armed regime. Relations between the countries have been strained over disputes dating back to Japan's occupation in the first half of the 20th century, and by North Korea's past abduction of Japanese citizens. "Establishing a fruitful relationship will not only benefit Japan and North Korea but will also contribute greatly to peace and stability in the region," Kishida said. 


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