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ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - The United States is satisfied with Japan's contribution to the alliance between the two countries, U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter said on Monday, looking to ease concern in the region about the direction President-elect Donald Trump may take.
The Obama administration made Asia and U.S. alliances there a priority. While details of Trump's approach to the region remain scant, his calls for allies to pay more to sustain U.S. forces or face their possible withdrawal have alarmed Japan and South Korea.
Japan is host to nearly 50,000 U.S. troops and pays about $1.6 billion annually towards the cost of them being stationed, said Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman.
"Japan reimburses the United States for a large fraction of those costs and that is good," Carter said. "It shows that it is a two-way street and as I said, the alliance relationship has never been stronger."
Carter made the comments while speaking to reporters on his way to Japan, where he is expected to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe along with U.S. and Japanese troops.
While Carter's words will be welcomed by Japan and other countries in the region, the soothing effect of anything he has to say will be limited because he is a "lame-duck," and does not represent Trump's still undefined policies.
Abe was the first foreign leader to meet Trump after the election and said afterwards that alliances must be based on trust and he saw the future president as a "trustworthy leader."
Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Robert Birsel