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John Kerry in Japan to discuss Korean crisis

Kerry held talks on Sunday with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, just a day before North's biggest holiday of the year, the Day of the Sun, the birth date of state founder Kim Il-sung. The day is an occasion for pomp and perhaps a military display. The North's state media, one of the few ways of glimpsing what is happening in the reclusive country, has so far ignored Kerry's talks in Beijing and Seoul. Kerry met China's senior leaders in Beijing on Saturday in a bid to persuade them to push reclusive North Korea, whose sole main ally is China, to scale back its belligerence and return to nuclear talks. North Korea has for weeks escalated threats of nuclear attacks on the US and South Korea, raising tensions on the Korean peninsula. In Seoul, Kerry said North Korea would be making a "huge mistake" if it launched one of its medium-range missiles during the current standoff. Japan, separated by less than 1,000km of water and a frequent target of North Korea's anger, is in easy range. Also likely to be high on the agenda in talks in Tokyo are Japan's territoral disputes with China and the future of US bases in Japan. The US  and Japan this month announced an agreement for the return to Japan of a US airbase, taking a step to resolving an issue that trouble relations.

Tina Burrett, assistant professor of international relations at Temple University in Tokyo, said the visit was "symbolic".
 
"It's important for Mr Kerry to reassure the Japanese that the United States will uphold its security. Two, I think it is important to show North Korea that the countries in East Asia are working in unison to try and dial down the tensions," she told Al Jazeera.
 
"So it's very important that China, Japan and South Korea are all seen to be singing from the same hymn sheet, if you like."
 
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken a moderate line on North Korea nuclear threats because he "recognises that, given its historical legacy from the second World War, Japan has a difficult relationship with both Koreas and with China," Burrett said.

"For Japan to dial up its rhetoric in a very difficult situation right now would actually, perhaps, create more tensions rather than lessening the tensions and - in particular - it may drive a wedge between South Korea and Japan at a time when these two countries need to be working together in partnership with the United States."

North Korea has issued new denunciations of US policy and made it plain it has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons, described as the "treasured" guarantor of the North's security.
 
The South Korean capital, Seoul, displayed the calm it has shown throughout the crisis. On Sunday residents strolled in bright sunshine, visiting street bazaars, ancient temples and walking in the hills.

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