The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific is planning to visit Japan next month and is likely to discuss with Japanese leaders China’s growing maritime assertiveness as well as North Korea’s nuclear test earlier this month, diplomatic sources said Sunday.
Adm. Harry Harris is expected to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani during the visit. Harris has been invited to attend a ceremony by the Defense Ministry on Feb. 17.
The two sides are likely to confirm close cooperation in responding to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test. Japan is looking to step up its sanctions against Pyongyang, while also participating in international moves for U.N. sanctions.
After the Jan. 6 nuclear test, the U.S. Pacific Command dispatched a B-52 bomber on a flight over South Korea, in an apparent show of force to North Korea.
In October the United States also sent a destroyer to an area close to one of China’s man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago, challenging Beijing’s land reclamation work in the South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap with those of some other countries.
Harris and Japanese leaders are expected to underscore a stronger Japan-U.S. alliance, as Tokyo plans to expand overseas missions by the Self-Defense Forces after recent security reforms, the sources said.
Harris, who assumed his post last May, visited Japan the following month and held talks with Abe and Nakatani.