Hagel looks to visit in late May

JIJI

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to visit Japan and South Korea in late May, around the time he is scheduled attend a security meeting in Singapore, sources said Tuesday.

It will be his first trip to the Asia-Pacific region since taking office in late February, the sources said.

In Japan, Hagel plans to hold talks with Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and other officials to discuss a range of issues, including the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan and China’s military expansion, the sources said.

In South Korea, talks are expected to focus on a response to escalating provocations by North Korea.

Hagel’s trip to Japan and South Korea is apparently aimed at highlighting the importance that U.S. President Barack Obama attaches to relations with the nations as cornerstones for stability in Asia, the sources said.

Hagel and Onodera are also scheduled to meet in Washington in late April or early May.