WASHINGTON – A senior U.S. Defense Department official expressed hope Wednesday that the United States will hold trilateral ministerial talks on defense with Japan and South Korea in Singapore.
Mark Lippert, chief of staff for the U.S. defense secretary, told a symposium that the three countries should build on their success in holding a summit and a senior working-level meeting earlier this year despite tense Tokyo-Seoul ties.
Lippert said he hopes the three defense chiefs can “make sure that things were on track” by getting together on the sidelines of the Asian security forum from May 30 to June 1 in Singapore.
The trilateral defense meeting in Washington last month involving senior working-level officials was “very productive,” said Lippert, a former assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs.
“I think we’re looking forward for even more progress heading into Shangri-La, where we traditionally do a trilateral meeting at the ministerial level,” he said. The annual security event is widely called the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Ties between Japan and South Korea — key U.S. security allies in East Asia — have been strained by disputes over history related to Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and the sovereignty of islets in the Sea of Japan, which the South calls the East Sea.
U.S. President Barack Obama brokered a trilateral summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye in The Hague in March to promote cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program.
The summit prompted Tokyo, Washington and Seoul to hold the three-way defense meeting in Washington and a further round of trilateral talks on North Korea the next month.
SDF to conduct isle drill
The Self-Defense Forces will conduct a drill next month to practice the retaking of a remote island, Defense Ministry officials said Wednesday as tensions remain high with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The drill in the Amami Island chain is apparently aimed at countering China’s maritime actions near the Japan-administered chain, which both Taiwan and Beijing claim.
About 1,300 personnel from all three SDF branches will take part in the drill as Japan tries to boost its capability to conduct amphibious operations.