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Defense chiefs of Japan, S. Korea, U.S. meet to discuss N. Korea


The defense chiefs of Japan, South Korea and the United States met Saturday in Singapore to bolster trilateral cooperation amid nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.

Meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Security Summit, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera is expected to explain Tokyo's recent agreement with Pyongyang to launch a reinvestigation into the whereabouts of Japanese nationals abducted by the reclusive state in the 1970s and 1980s.

Onodera also hopes to assure U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin that Tokyo has not budged on its stance to pile pressure on North Korea to take concrete steps toward denuclearization, Japanese officials said.

The three countries aim to form a joint front against North Korea, whose provocative actions continue to raise tensions in the Asia-Pacific region where China's military influence is also growing.

As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has prioritized resolving the abduction issue during his tenure, some experts say the agreement between Japan and North Korea could be a breakthrough, but trilateral cooperation may remain a stumbling block.

Japan is trying to rework its security framework with a review of legal restraints on exercising the right to collective self-defense, a move that has raised the hackles of South Korea, which suffered from Japan's colonial rule.

Abe reiterated Saturday in his keynote speech to the summit, dubbed the Shangri-La Dialogue, Japan will continue to be a pacifist nation.