Japan's Defense Minister, US Indo-Pacific commander reaffirm close ties

Japan's Defense Minister and the commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command have agreed to work together closely to strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-US alliance.

Defense Minister Kihara Minoru held talks with Admiral John Aquilino at his ministry in Tokyo on Monday. The US commander will leave his post in May.

Kihara expressed gratitude for an offer of help from the US in the search for missing crew members of two Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters that crashed during nighttime training on Saturday in the Pacific.

Kihara said it's sad that Aquilino's tenure is coming to an end. But he said he sincerely hopes the US military and the Self-Defense Forces will continue efforts to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Aquilino referred to support the US received from the Self-Defense Forces following a fatal crash of an US Osprey aircraft off the coast of southwestern Japan last November. He said the United States now stands ready to support Japan in the search and rescue of its service members.

Aquilino also said he is confident that his successor, Admiral Samuel Paparo, will continue to work with the Self-Defense Forces to strengthen the alliance even further.