Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed Tuesday to boost the deterrence and response capabilities of the bilateral alliance after North Korea launched for the first time in five years a ballistic missile that flew over the Japanese archipelago, according to the Japanese government.
The two leaders also jointly condemned North Korea's missile test "in the strongest terms," calling the launch -- which sent the projectile a greater distance than in any previous test by Pyongyang -- a danger to the Japanese people and destabilizing to the region, the White House said in a statement.
Following the 25-minute phone talks, Kishida said North Korea's latest move posed "a blatant and grave challenge" to peace and the stability of the region and the international community, and such awareness was "completely shared" with the U.S. president.
They affirmed the two allies and South Korea will step up coordination at the U.N. Security Council toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea, Kishida told reporters.
In separate phone talks, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin that Japan will substantially strengthen its defense without ruling out any option, including so-called counterstrike capability.
Such capability would enable an attack on missile-launching sites in enemy territory, a military ability the Asian country has so far opted against acquiring under the post-World War II pacifist Constitution.
Japan and the United States are seeking close alignment of their security strategies amid the increasingly challenging security environment in the region, casting a wary eye over North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs and China's assertive behavior.
Austin reiterated Washington's unwavering commitment to providing extended deterrence to defend Tokyo through nuclear and other U.S. military capabilities, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.
Referring to the talks with Biden, Kishida said confirmation of bilateral coordination over North Korea's latest provocation represents the Biden administration's strong commitment to the security of Asia.
Kishida said he would like to promote close communication with South Korea over regional security, including the situation in North Korea.
South Korean lawmakers briefed by intelligence officials last week said a window for North Korea's possible nuclear test, which would be its seventh, could be between China's Communist Party congress this month and U.S. midterm elections in November.
Regarding Pyongyang's past abduction of Japanese nationals, Kishida told reporters that Biden assured him the United States will cooperate on the longstanding issue.
The abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s has been a major stumbling block for normalizing diplomatic ties between Tokyo and Pyongyang, along with the latter's nuclear and missile development.