U.S. Defense Secretary Dr. Mark Esper met his Japanese counterpart, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, in Tokyo on Wednesday morning.

This is Esper’s first trip to Japan since taking on the position last month.

The two leaders expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program and China’s aggressive ambitions in the South China Sea. Esper said China’s behavior is destabilizing the region.

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The meeting with Japan’s defense minister began after a military welcome ceremony for the U.S. secretary of defense.

“Today I look forward to discussing regional challenges including issues with North Korea,” and to discuss in detail Japan’s cooperation with the U.S., said Iwaya.

For his part, Esper expressed appreciation for Japan’s continued support. He personally thanked Iwaya for “Japan’s leadership in enforcing UN Security Council resolutions” to keep “international pressure on North Korea.”

In a tweet, Esper commented that the “strategic visions of both Japan and U.S. are aligned” and “uphold enduring values.”

During the meeting between the two defense chiefs, Iwaya brought up the concern of the “increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan.”

The Japanese defense minister conveyed the wish to further strengthen Japan’s alliance with the U.S. Iwaya highlighted the need for “continued close partnership within our defense agencies at all levels.”

Esper responded unswervingly, referring to the Chinese communist regime’s ongoing maritime aggression in the South China Sea.

“I must point out that China chooses to act contrary to these values, preferring to coerce its neighbors into activities designed for Beijing’s benefit,” said Esper.

He continued asserting that China’s behavior “destabilizes our region” and requested the Japanese defense chief for his considerations in dealing with the Chinese regime.

“I welcome your thoughts on effective steps we can take to persuade China to give due respect to its neighbors and international norms and values,” said Esper.

While in Japan, the U.S. defense secretary also visited Yokota Air Base. Esper tweeted that he had a “great engagement” with service members from the 21st Special Operations Squadron.

During his Asia-Pacific trip, Esper visited Australia and New Zealand for similar defense talks before Japan.

Upon concluding his Japanese trip, Esper heads for Mongolia. He is also expected to visit South Korea.