US, Japan discuss North Korean threat

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. and Japanese defense chiefs and top diplomats were meeting in Washington Thursday to discuss North Korea amid mixed messages from the Trump administration on how to deal with the nuclear and missile threat.

Japan is a key U.S. ally and potential target of North Korean aggression. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are hosting Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Foreign Minister Taro Kono at the State Department. 

Thursday’s annual security cooperation meeting comes days after North Korea warned of plans to launch missiles toward the U.S. Pacific island of Guam. President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon says there’s no military solution to the North Korean threat. Just last week, Trump pledged to answer North Korean aggression with “fire and fury.”

After greeting the Japanese ministers, Tillerson pointedly shook the hand of acting top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Susan Thornton, as the meeting began. In Bannon’s interview with The American Prospect posted online Wednesday, he talked about purging his rivals from the Defense and State departments and named Thornton as one official he wanted out. He called for a tougher U.S. stance on trade with China, saying the two powers were in an “economic war.”

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