US and Japan Vow 'Strong Action' over North Korea Nuclear Test

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By Vasudevan Sridharan | February 23, 2013 5:54 PM EST

US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington (Reuters)

US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have held "close consultations" over security issues and vowed to send a "strong" message to North Korea over its latest nuclear test.

Abe, who took over as prime minister in December 2013, was in Washington for a bilateral summit on a range of security and economic issues.

"We've had close consultations on a wide range of security issues, in particular our concerns about the provocative actions that have been taken in North Korea and our determination to take strong actions in response," Obama said following the talks with Abe.

The Japanese prime minister said Washington and Tokyo have agreed to press ahead with further sanctions against Pyongyang.

Abe said: "We agreed that it was important for Japan and the United States to not provide rewards to North Korea for their actions, such as launching missiles and conducting nuclear tests."

The summit will also be helpful for Washington which is looking to strengthen ties with its "pivot" in the Asian region in order to confront the growing influence of China.

"As a result of our discussion, we were able to share our understanding on not just concrete policy but on the direction to which our alliance is headed. I think I can declare with confidence that the trust and the bond in our alliance is back," said Abe, who is often described as a hawk on foreign policy matters.

Abe insisted that Japan has "always" been dealing with China in a "calm manner" when it comes to territorial disputes over the chain of Islands in the South China Sea.

Regarding the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, the two leaders released a carefully worded joint statement saying: "The two governments confirm that should Japan participate in the TPP negotiations, all goods would be subject to negotiation. As the final outcome will be determined during the negotiations, it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations."

Washington intends to complete the TPP negotiations by the end of 2013 and hopes for the active participation of both South Korea and Japan.

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