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In a positive move the South Korean defence minister signalled the country may strengthen its military cooperation with rival Japan as the two U.S. allies work to boost regional security against threats like the ones posed by North Korea.

Suh Wook, who held talks last week with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on their debut trip abroad since taking office, said Seoul considers Japan as one of its crucial security partners and wants to continue its cooperation with the neighbour in partnership with the U.S.

“What is protecting the Korean Peninsula is centred around the Korea-U.S. alliance, but we believe the Korea-Japan security cooperation is also a valuable asset, which is why we need to maintain this,” Suh said in a Television interview, a day after finishing talks with the U.S. envoys.

The visits to Tokyo and Seoul by Blinken and Austin appeared to help defrost chilly relations between the neighbours, who host the bulk of American troops in the region.

Ties plunged to a new low during President Donald Trump’s tenure as tensions arising from historical differences touched off a trade dispute that at one point threatened global supply lines for semiconductors and nearly led South Korea to abandon a joint intelligence-sharing agreement.

The defence minister also said that Seoul would continue to develop its alliance with the new Biden administration, allowing it to play a bigger security role on the international stage.

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