TOKYO, Aug 10: Japan and the United States sealed a deal on defence secrets on Friday, in a show of solidarity days after a powerful opposition leader publicly rebuffed a US request for continued support for its Afghan operations.

A smiling Foreign Minister Taro Aso greeted US Ambassador Thomas Schieffer at the ministry in Tokyo, before they signed and exchanged copies of an agreement Japanese officials said would facilitate the exchange of classified information.

The two countries are cooperating on research and development for a joint ballistic missile defence shield that has begun to take shape in and around Japan, in a move inspired by Tokyo's fears over North Korea's missile tests.

The United States has been pushing since 2005 for Japan to sign a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which lays down rules about the treatment of confidential defence information shared between the two countries.

“This is a great day for Japan, the US and me personally,” Schieffer said after the signing, adding that the deal with Tokyo had been proposed 20 years ago and was Washington's 65th such agreement with another country.

The long delay in agreeing the confidentiality deal may have been partly due to pacifist Japan's misgivings about allowing the military too much power, a Defence Agency official said earlier this year.

—Reuters

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