Algerian hostage crisis brings promise of closer US-Japan ties on terror fight

Last month's deadly hostage crisis in Algeria that left 10 Japanese and three Americans dead will spark closer counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries, President Obama vowed Friday after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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The two leaders discussed a “wide range of multilateral issues” during their meeting at the White House, Obama said. The two leaders were scheduled to discuss trade and economic issues during a subsequent luncheon.

“I expressed my appreciation for the support Japan has provided to our efforts in Afghanistan, our efforts to resolve the nuclear issue in Iran,” Obama said. “And we expressed mutual condolences around the loss of life at the BP plant in Algeria and pledged that this would spur greater counterterrorism cooperation.”

Japan lost more people than any other country when Islamist militants attacked the In Amenas natural gas facility in Algeria's eastern desert last month. At least 40 hostages were killed in the attack by militants protesting the French intervention in neighboring Mali, along with 29 militants.

Abe said the visit was aimed at strengthening U.S.-Japanese ties at a time of increasing tensions in east Asia. North Korea's third nuclear test dominated the conversation, as did territorial disputes with China.

“I think the one big theme in our meeting today was for us to discuss in which direction we would be strengthening the alliance between Japan and the United States. And we touched upon many issues that we have to deal with in that regard,” Abe said. 

“And as a result of our discussion, we were able to share our understanding on not just concrete policy, but on direction to which our alliance is headed. I can declare with confidence that the trust and the bond in our alliance is back.”

Obama called the U.S.-Japan alliance the “central foundation for our regional security and so much of what we do in the Pacific region.”

“So we're looking forward to building a very strong working relationship on a whole range of issues,” he said. “We have had close consultations on a wide range of security issues, in particular our concerns about the provocative actions that have been taken in North Korea and our determination to take strong actions in response.”