TOKYO -- Japan and the U.S. need to set new rules on trade and investment, Tom Rose, a top aide to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, told a forum in Tokyo on Saturday.
Rose's remarks come days before U.S. President Donald Trump is to kick off a tour of Asia. He was speaking at the Mount Fuji Dialogue, a gathering of influential businesspeople and politicians from the two countries -- including Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.
The U.S., Rose said, wants balanced economic relations. Pence's senior adviser and chief strategist acknowledged that the complex U.S. tax system has become an obstacle to business investment, adding that Trump's administration is committed to addressing tax reform and deregulation.
As for security, Rose said the U.S. would continue to deploy its most advanced military assets in Japan. In an interview with The Nikkei following the forum, he said the U.S. would under no circumstances strike a deal recognizing North Korea as a nuclear power.
Rose said it is completely up to Kim Jong Un's regime whether the standoff over the North's nuclear weapons program is resolved peacefully.
He stressed that the U.S. would defend its allies Japan and South Korea in the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Asked about the possibility of Pence visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- the only cities hit by nuclear weapons -- Rose said it is a delicate issue but that he would discuss it with the vice president.
Onodera also spoke about the North Korean threat at the opening of the gathering.
The minister said the time for dealing with the North's nuclear and missile programs is running short. If Pyongyang does not change course, he said, things could get even more tense over the next few months.
Onodera argued that the U.S., Japan and South Korea need to discuss ways to brace for a possible conflict. Regarding Trump's upcoming visit to Asia, he warned the situation could deteriorate if the president's diplomatic efforts do not bear fruit.
The Mount Fuji Dialogue is sponsored by the Japan Center for Economic Research and the Japan Institute of International Affairs.