Japan's defense minister says U.S.-South Korean military drills 'vital'

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera speaks at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore June 2, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s defense chief said on Wednesday the U.S. military’s presence in South Korea and joint military exercises were “vital” for East Asian security after President Donald Trump’s surprise statement that he would halt war games with the South.

“We would like to seek an understanding of this between Japan, the U.S. and South Korea,” Japan’s Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera told reporters.

Onodera said Japan would continue joint military exercises with the United States and would stick to plans to bolster its defenses against a possible ballistic missile strike from North Korea.

His comments came after Trump’s stunning concession following his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on Tuesday.

Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Writing by Tim Kelly; Editing by Paul Tait