By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan on Thursday said it would duly respond to any U.S drone strike on its soil.
"Pakistan army has made it clear that any [U.S] drone strike will be responded accordingly," Foreign Ministry spokesman, Dr Muhammad Faisal said during a weekly press briefing in capital Islamabad while responding to a question.
The rare reaction follows recent statements from top U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, accusing Islamabad of "playing a double-game" and providing safe havens to militants fighting in war-torn Afghanistan.
Drone strikes have been a frequent tactic by the U.S forces since 2004 to target suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region, mainly North and South Waziristan, which border Afghanistan.
There has been a significant decrease in drone strikes on Pakistani soil in recent years after the Pakistan army launched a full-scale onslaught on North Waziristan –a former stronghold of Pakistani Taliban– forcing militants to flee toward Afghanistan in June 2104.
According to local media, more than 3,450 people have been killed in 417 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. According to international think tanks and human rights groups, including Amnesty international and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 70 percent of drone victims were unarmed civilians.
Despite Pakistan's public objections to the U.S. drone strikes, it is rumored to have given tacit approval to the ongoing controversial operations. Pakistan has also developed its own drone to use in the militant-hit northwestern tribal belt.
Already frosty relations between the U.S. and Pakistan –the two allies in the so-called war against terrorism– have further nosedived since President Trump assumed office in January last year, mainly due to a clash of interests in Afghanistan.
-Japanese foreign minister's visit
Meanwhile, visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono has appreciated Pakistan's sacrifices and contributions in the fight against terrorism.
Kono, who is on a two-day trip to Islamabad, held separate meetings with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed issues relating to economic and trade cooperation between the two sides, and peace and stability in the region, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
Asif briefed his Japanese counterpart on Pakistan's counterterrorism efforts targeting all terrorists, irrespective of their origin or orientation.
Kono, for his part, expressed appreciation for the sacrifices made by the people of Pakistan in this regard and stressed the need for a coordinated international effort in the fight against extremism and terrorism, the statement added.
In an interview with local English daily Dawn on Thursday, Kono said Japan "highly" acknowledged Pakistan's "serious" efforts in the fight against terrorism.
"Japan has firmly supported the efforts of the government of Pakistan and its people standing against terrorism," he said, adding Japan would continue to work with Pakistan with an emphasis on cooperation in the field of counterterrorism.