Japan, U.S. officials reaffirm cooperation in strengthening alliance

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat on East Asia, reaffirmed bilateral cooperation on Monday in strengthening the security alliance and tackling the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, Japanese officials said.

During a meeting in Tokyo, the visiting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs said he hopes to work hard to strengthen bilateral ties for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and regional economic development.

Russel's visit to Japan, his first since assuming the State Department post in July, comes just days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama held a summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia. He serves under Secretary of State John Kerry.

Also Monday, Russel discussed with senior Foreign Ministry officials a range of issues, including the realignment of U.S. forces in Okinawa as well as "hot spots" like Syria and North Korea, he told reporters.

"I told the chief Cabinet secretary that I believe that U.S.-Japan relationships are in excellent shape, and that Secretary Kerry and I are deeply committed to carrying forward the president's policy of rebalancing, and investing in the Asia-Pacific region and supporting the U.S.-Japan relationships," Russel told reporters.

During his meeting with Suga, the U.S. diplomat noted that through a telephone conversation and the summit meeting last week, Abe and Obama have deepened their personal relationship, according to the officials.

Another Japanese official said earlier that the two leaders are now on a first-name basis, calling each other "Shinzo" and "Barack."

Suga and Russel also agreed that Japan and the United States should further cooperate in responding to global issues, including cybersecurity, and strengthening people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

Russel also congratulated Suga on Tokyo's successful bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The U.S. official said after the meeting that he hopes to come to Japan for the quadrennial event.

Russel will visit Beijing on Friday after stopping in Brunei and Indonesia.