National

Japan's new defense chief to visit U.S., South Sudan

Kyodo

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada will visit the United States to hold talks with her U.S. counterpart Ashton Carter on Thursday, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

The meeting that comes as the two countries eye closer cooperation under Japan’s new security legislation.

The talks between Inada and the U.S. defense secretary also follow North Korea’s fifth nuclear test on Friday, which has triggered international criticism.

It will be Inada’s first visit to the United States since assuming her current post in a Cabinet reshuffle in early August. The trip will also take her to South Sudan, where the Self-Defense Forces are being deployed for U.N. peacekeeping operations.

A Japanese government source said earlier that Inada hopes to confirm with Carter a strong Japan-U.S. alliance and to agree to steadily implement joint exercises between Japanese and U.S. troops, given that SDF personnel have taken on new roles under the security legislation, which came into force in March.

The most notable change resulting from the legislation is that Japan is now allowed, in a limited manner, to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of the United States and other friendly nations under armed attack, even if Japan itself is not attacked.

Before the meeting, Inada will deliver a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on the bilateral alliance.

The Japanese minister is scheduled to arrive in South Sudan on Saturday. She will leave the African country the same day and return to Japan on Sunday.

Japan began sending SDF troops to South Sudan in 2012 for the U.N. peacekeeping mission called UNMISS to help develop infrastructure, after the African country gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

Since late 2013, the country has been mired in conflicts between government forces and rebels. A peace deal was signed in August 2015, but renewed fighting in the capital of Juba in early July killed more than 270 people.

Amid deteriorating security, South Sudan’s government recently accepted the deployment of 4,000 extra peacekeepers authorized by the U.N. Security Council in August as part of the ongoing U.N. mission, according to the United Nations.