Foreign, defense chiefs set first meeting with U.S. counterparts

Kyodo

Japanese and U.S. foreign and defense chiefs are expected to agree to review defense cooperation guidelines amid the changing security environment in the Asia-Pacific region when they meet in Tokyo on Oct. 3, a Japanese government source said Wednesday.

The so-called two-plus-two meeting will be the first for Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and their U.S. counterparts, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. It is also the first to be held in Japan since 1996, when the issue of replacing U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa was one of the major items.

In addition to the revision of the defense guidelines, they are also expected to bolster missile defense, namely to counter North Korea’s ballistic missiles, and to discuss other security concerns, particularly China’s growing maritime assertiveness, cybersecurity and the peaceful use of outer space, the source said.

Tokyo will also outline Japan’s new defense posture under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose agenda includes giving Japan the capability to attack enemy bases and lifting the self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, according to the source.

For Japan, China has been a major concern as both nations are at odds over the sovereignty of the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

To enable Japan to take on a greater security role, Abe is aiming to amend the pacifist Constitution, and change the government’s interpretation of the supreme law, which currently does not permit Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack.

Other items on the agenda include a bilateral plan to transfer U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa to Guam and the feasibility of moving some of the flight operations of the MV-22 Ospreys out of Okinawa, with the aim of relieving some of the base-hosting burdens there and appeasing local opposition to the deployment of the tilt-rotor aircraft.

The guidelines on defense cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military were first created during the Cold War in 1978 to prepare for a possible attack by the Soviet Union, and were revised in 1997 in preparation for emergencies on the Korean Peninsula.

Japanese and U.S. defense chiefs agreed last August to accelerate discussions to revise the guidelines.

The upcoming meeting is planned to be held in Tokyo as Kerry is expected to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering in Indonesia while Hagel will go to South Korea in early October, though it could be moved depending on their schedules.