The U.S.-led NATO alliance and Japan, facing mounting security challenges in their respective neighborhoods, are agreeing to cooperate more.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the two sides signed Tuesday an "individual partnership and cooperation program" that will serve as a roadmap for future joint activities. He spoke during a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to NATO headquarters.

In a speech to ambassadors from the alliance's 28 member states, Abe said NATO shared Japan's "fundamental values" and was "our natural partner."

"Together, we triumphed in the Cold War."

Rasmussen said the program would affect activities like counter-piracy operations, disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

He lauded Japan for spending billions to support alliance operations in Afghanistan and for being NATO's oldest partner from outside Europe or North America.