The Japanese and British foreign and defense ministers were to meet Wednesday to discuss closer security cooperation, including a possible exercise to evacuate each other’s nationals from a crisis overseas, a Japanese official said.

The “two plus two” talks were to be the first ever held by the Japanese and British governments.

They were expected to agree to pursue cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and British armed forces in such fields as post-disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

The two governments were expected also to agree to consider joint exercises to prepare for future U.N.-led peacekeeping operations and a possible drill to rescue noncombatants overseas, the official said.

Engagement by the SDF in such operations is controversial, given that the use of force overseas is strictly constrained by the Constitution.

Britain is the fifth nation to conduct two-plus-two security talks with Japan, following the United States, Australia, Russia and France. The framework allows for decisions to be made on key strategic and security policies.

In the context of the fight against terrorism, the official said Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani would ask British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon to help rescue two Japanese men held captive by Islamic State militants.

Japan and Britain are currently conducting a joint study of possible new protective clothing for biochemical threats and preparatory research on a component of an air-to-air missile. The ministers were to reaffirm their commitment to joint research on defense equipment, the official said.

Tokyo and London also planned to agree to accelerate negotiations on an accord enabling the SDF and the British military to share supplies and transportation during U.N. peacekeeping operations, the official said.

Japan has already signed an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement with the United States and Australia.

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