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International relations

US nuclear umbrella in Asia is non-negotiable: Top official

Assistant defense secretary affirms commitment to shielding Japan and South Korea

U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary Randall Schriver speaks at the Asia-Pacific Geo-Economic Strategy Forum on April 30. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

STANFORD, U.S. -- The U.S. will not negotiate on its nuclear umbrella over Japan and South Korea in future talks with North Korea, a high-ranking Pentagon official says.

Randall Schriver, assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, made the vow Monday at the 2nd Asia-Pacific Geo-Economic Strategy Forum co-hosted by Nikkei Inc. and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California.

The U.S. currently provides "extended deterrence" to Japan and South Korea, which is essentially a commitment to retaliate, including through nuclear weapons, against any attacks on those countries. But North Korea's call for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula has raised concerns that it could demand the U.S. withdraw its troops from South Korea and retract the nuclear umbrella over Seoul in exchange for dismantling its nuclear program.

North Korea has defined the term "denuclearization" broadly, Schriver said. Still, he stressed that the American commitment to protect allies is unshakable. He also called on countries to continue exerting "maximum pressure" on Pyongyang until it scraps its nuclear arms.

Schriver also said the Japan-U.S. alliance will take a flexible approach to the rise of China. He touched on the importance of multilateral frameworks, including a four-way partnership with Australia and India.

Various defense experts from Japan and the U.S., including former Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, attended the one-day forum. The discussions mainly centered on the North Korean issue and commerce in Asia.

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