US defence secretary, retired General Jim Mattis is strengthening ties with his country’s allies in Asia.
Touching down in Japan, after a visit to North Korea, Mattis seemed eager to reassure the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, that the US would honour the countries’ mutual defence treaty.
That is a task made more difficult since Donald Trump pulled out of the Asia-Pacific trade deal, championed by Japan.
Trump also hinted during the election campaign that Japan was benefiting from a US security umbrella without paying its fair share.
Prime Minister Abe was the first to extend a hand of friendship sitting face to face with Mattis.
Abe said: “I do have hope and I am convinced that together with you, we will be able to demonstrate the unwavering alliance between Japan and the United States both to the public inside and outside Japan.”
Mattis quickly responded: “I want there to be no misunderstanding during the transition in Washington that we stand firmly, 100 percent shoulder to shoulder with you and the Japanese people, Mr. Prime Minister.”
With political instability worsening in the region after a string of nuclear tests from North Korea and an ongoing territorial dispute between China and several nations over islands in the South and East China Seas, the Trump administration is eager to smooth over any diplomatic cracks with its allies and do some political and military muscle flexing.