Japan, U.S. defense, foreign chiefs to meet in July amid N. Korea woes

Japan and the United States are planning to hold in mid-July their first meeting of foreign and defense ministers since U.S. President Donald Trump took office to discuss how to strengthen their response to North Korea's missile development, according to officials of the two governments. In the so-called two-plus-two talks, their foreign and defense ministers are expected to meet in Washington to discuss steps to beef up a ballistic missile defense system and review the duties of the U.S. military and Japan's Self-Defense Forces, the officials said. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will take part in the meeting, the first of its kind between the two countries since April 2015. The ministers are expected to confirm the need for the international community to exert further pressure on North Korea as it has conducted a series of missile launches this year and could plan a sixth nuclear test despite U.N. Security Council resolutions banning it from carrying out either activity, the officials said. Japan and the United States are also set to discuss threats to security in the Asia-Pacific region and reflect on China's expansionary moves in the East and South China Seas. The ministers may take up the issue of introducing a land-based Aegis missile defense system -- called "Aegis Ashore" -- in Japan to deal with North Korea's growing missile threats. The participants are also expected to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the defense of the Senkaku Islands, a group of East China Sea islets administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan, in accordance with the Japan-U.S. security treaty, as well as the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan, despite strong local opposition. The two countries plan to issue a joint statement after the meeting, stating their affirmation in these matters. Tokyo and Washington had earlier sought to hold two-plus-two talks sometime before early May. But a July meeting is now being eyed as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump agreed to hold one during their meeting on Friday on the sidelines of the Group of Seven industrialized nations' summit in Italy.

May 29, 2017 | KYODO NEWS