US Defense Secretary Mark Esper met with senior South Korean leaders on Friday amid a series of regional challenges ranging from a trade row between Seoul and Tokyo, to the cost of US troops stationed in South Korea.

Esper is on his first international trip since being confirmed as defense secretary. While the trade issue, which threatens regional intelligence sharing, came up in his meetings in Seoul, Esper reiterated the importance of the South Korean-US alliance and said the allies would continue to coordinate on North Korea, Reuters reported.

During a meeting with Esper, South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said Japan’s export restrictions against Seoul are “causing adverse effects on South Korea-Japan relations and security cooperation among South Korea, the US and Japan.”

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