TOKYO • Japan has stressed that a decision by the United States and South Korea to delay a huge military drill was not tantamount to an easing of pressure on North Korea.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Tokyo, Washington and Seoul remained committed to applying maximum pressure on the secretive regime.
The three allies "have confirmed a shared policy to further increase pressure against North Korea", Mr Suga told a regular press briefing yesterday.
"Including this case (the delaying of the drill), Japan, the US and South Korea closely share information and align policies regarding North Korea," Mr Suga said.
"The decision on the timing of the joint exercise is not designed to compromise the increased pressure on North Korea."
On Thursday, US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae In agreed to delay the giant Foal Eagle and Key Resolve joint military drills until after the Winter Olympics, which begin in Pyeongchang on Feb 9.
In a further sign of the possible easing of tensions, the North agreed to hold its first talks with the South since December 2015.
Next week's scheduled talks come after tensions spiralled in recent months following North Korea's multiple missile launches and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test - purportedly of a hydrogen bomb.
Mr Trump has also traded personal insults with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un, rattling regional allies.
Japan, a key US ally in the region, has been singled out by Pyongyang amid threats to "sink" the country into the sea and turn it into "ashes".
In a New Year speech on Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the security situation facing his country was the worst since 1945 and vowed "maximum pressure" on North Korea to force it into dropping its missile and nuclear programmes.