• Kyodo

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An upcoming meeting of Japanese and U.S. defense ministers could lead Tokyo to review its national defense plan to fulfill U.S. requests that it get more involved in Asian security, diplomatic sources said.

Tokyo could be led to launch a quick revision of the National Defense Program Outlines on expectations that Washington will ask more of the Self-Defense Forces, the sources told Kyodo News on Sunday. The outlines were revised in November 1995 for the first time in 19 years.

Defense Agency head Gen Nakatani and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are to meet for the first time in late May. The two will finalize a plan to set up a panel on long-term strategic issues with a focus on bilateral matters, the sources.

Japan expects the panel’s discussions to play a key role in revising the 1995 plan. Rumsfeld plans to outline his policy in a comprehensive review of U.S. defense to be released this month, which will emphasize security in Asia.

The sources also said the United States will end its practice of fixing the number of U.S. military personnel in East Asia and the Pacific, which is currently 100,000, in a Quadrennial Defense Review to be announced in September.

They quoted Pentagon officials as saying the move would be made to give the Pentagon flexibility in deployment.

The U.S. administration led by President George W. Bush has requested allied countries to play a larger role in joint defense schemes and has actively pursued plans for a theater missile defense.

In a possible defense revision, Tokyo will bear in mind the increasingly modernization of the Chinese military and the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the sources said.

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