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International Relations

Japan, Britain eye coordination over North Korea, post-Brexit economic ties

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono attend their joint news conference at the foreign ministry’s Iikura guest house in Tokyo, Sept.18.   © AP

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and Britain agreed Tuesday to deepen security cooperation to ensure stability in Asia as challenges remain for North Korea's abandonment of its nuclear weapons and missiles and the implementation of U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.

During talks in Tokyo, Foreign Minister Taro Kono and British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also stressed the importance of stronger economic ties as promoters of free trade.

"The U.K. and Japan are global strategic partners sharing fundamental values," Kono told Hunt at the outset of the meeting, expressing hope to take the bilateral relationship to "the next stage."

Japan and Britain will step up coordination over issues related to North Korea, particularly over its ship-to-ship transfers of goods in violation of U.N. sanctions, Kono said at a joint press conference with Hunt.

Japan and Britain have been strengthening defense cooperation, with the Maritime Self-Defense Force conducing joint drills with the Royal Navy in the Indo-Pacific region.

At the press conference, Hunt said such developments show Britain's "enduring commitment to the stability of East Asia and the Pacific."

The first face-to-face meeting for Kono and Hunt came amid growing concern about a "no-deal Brexit," a scenario in which Britain leaves the European Union without an agreement.

Kono said he asked Hunt to ensure "predictability and transparency" in Brexit negotiations and expressed hope for closer economic ties after Britain leaves the European Union in 2019.

Japan and the European Union signed a free trade agreement in July. Tokyo has hailed Britain's interest in joining the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord.

"The U.K and Japan are both champions of free trade," Hunt said, adding that they have been making "good progress" in creating a new bilateral economic relationship as agreed by their countries' leaders.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Hunt that Japan will cooperate with Britain in promoting free and fair trade and the rule of law at sea.

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