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Mattis not to ask Japan, S. Korea for heavier U.S. deployment costs

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis will not ask Japan and South
Korea to pay a bigger share of expenses associated with hosting U.S.
forces when he visits the two key Asian allies this week, Japanese
and U.S. government sources said Monday.

While the sources referred to such an outlook, Pentagon
spokesman Jeff Davis said the purpose of Mattis' visit to South Korea
on Thursday and Japan on Friday and Saturday is "not to roll out any
big changes in U.S. policy."

"It will mostly be a chance for him to listen, meet the parties
involved there...and make sure we're positioned, going forward, to be
able to continue the strong alliances we have," Davis told reporters,
referring to Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who took office
Jan. 20.

"He wants to find out what their concerns are," Davis said.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who was sworn in on Jan. 20,
demanded during his presidential campaign that Japan, South Korea and
other U.S. allies increase their shares of the costs of deploying
U.S. troops in the countries -- or else defend themselves.

Davis said Japan and South Korea are "our most important Pacific
allies," and that they are "crucial to peace and stability in the
region" whose security situation has become increasingly severe due
to the rise of China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Mattis plans to hold talks with South Korean Defense Minister
Han Min Koo in Seoul on Thursday before meeting with Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada during a
two-day trip to Tokyo from Friday.

The trip will precede what will be the first summit meeting
between Abe and Trump on Feb. 10 in Washington.

In Seoul, Mattis and Han are expected to discuss North Korea's
nuclear threat and the planned deployment of an advanced U.S. missile
defense system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense
system to South Korea.

China has strongly opposed the THAAD deployment, saying it could
undermine its security interests and the strategic balance of the
region. (Jan. 30)