The alliance between the US and Japan has never been stronger, and is increasingly important as North Korea continues its belligerence and China pushes its control of the South China Sea, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. Carter, who landed Monday at Yokota AB, Japan, as part of his final tour through the region, said the US-Japan alliance is “a two-way street” and has never been stronger, according to Reuters. Carter is expected to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, and will reassure Japan of the US commitment to the alliance. The US pays about $1.6 billion to host 50,000 US troops in Japan, according to the Pentagon. Abe announced on Monday that he will travel to Pearl Harbor later this month to become the first sitting Japanese leader to visit the site of Japan’s surprise attack 75 years ago, the New York Times reported. Abe will travel to Pearl Harbor with President Barack Obama, who earlier this year became the first American President to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where the US dropped an atomic bomb at the end of World War II.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.