US 'committed' to defend Japan from N Korea
US secretary of state John Kerry told Japan today that the United States would protect it from North Korea's threats, after securing a commitment from China to rein in the unpredictable regime.world Updated: Apr 14, 2013 18:36 IST
US secretary of state John Kerry told Japan on Sunday that the United States would protect it from North Korea's threats, after securing a commitment from China to rein in the unpredictable regime.
After a meeting with Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, where Patriot missiles have been deployed in anticipation of a missile launch by the North, Kerry pledged the US would backstop its ally.
"The United States is fully committed to the defence of Japan," Kerry told a joint press conference with Kishida in Tokyo.
Kerry's comments came after the Korean Central News Agency said on Friday that any attempt by Japan to shoot down a missile would result in a war that would see Tokyo "consumed in nuclear flames".
"Japan is always in the cross-hairs of our revolutionary army and if Japan makes a slightest move, the spark of war will touch Japan first," KCNA said in a commentary.
The Asian leg of Kerry's 10-day tour has seen him move through Seoul and Beijing, with Washington keen to press home the need for a united front against Pyongyang's erratic and bellicose behaviour.
He found a sympathetic ear in Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will hold talks with Kerry on Monday, said Pyongyang had to realise it was harming itself by being "provocative".
There are fears the launch could come on Monday, the anniversary of the birth of the North's late founder Kim Il-Sung. The presence of Kerry in the region, ensuring maximum publicity, may also appeal to the regime.
"The government will do its utmost to protect the lives and safety of the Japanese people," Abe told local reporters during a visit to Iwo To, better known as Iwo Jima, where he attended a war memorial service.
"The international community has to be united and make North Korea realise that their provocative acts do not bring any benefit to North Korea," Abe said, according to national broadcaster NHK.
"Japan wants to coordinate with the United States, South Korea, China and Russia and convey the message to North Korea that it must not repeat its provocations and must not launch missiles."
Kerry's arrival in Japan, where he will stay until Monday afternoon, follows an intense day of diplomacy on Saturday in Beijing, where he warned Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping that the stakes for global and regional security were high.
China is Pyongyang's sole major ally and backer, and is widely seen as the only country with leverage to influence its actions - although it is reluctant to risk destabilising the regime.
The top US diplomat hailed Saturday's joint commitment from Chinese and US leaders to work together to dial down the tensions as "unprecedented".