National / Politics

Japan, U.S. plan 'two plus two' meeting in July to discuss North Korea


Japan and the United States are planning to hold in mid-July the first meeting of their foreign and defense chiefs since U.S. President Donald Trump took office to discuss how to strengthen their response to North Korea’s missile development, officials of the two governments say.

In the so-called two-plus-two talks, the two countries’ foreign and defense chiefs are expected to meet in Washington to discuss steps to beef up a ballistic missile defense system and review the duties of the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces, the officials said.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, will take part in the meeting, which will be the first since April 2015.

The ministers are expected to confirm the need for the international community to exert further pressure on North Korea for its missile launches this year, and a potential sixth nuclear test, despite U.N. Security Council resolutions banning it from carrying out either activity, the officials said.

Japan and the U.S. are also set to discuss threats to security in the Asia-Pacific region and reflect on China’s expansionary moves in the East and South China seas.

The ministers may take up the issue of introducing a land-based Aegis missile defense system — called Aegis Ashore — in Japan to deal with North Korea’s growing missile threats.

The participants are also expected to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the defense of the Senkaku Islands, a group of islets in the East China Sea administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan, in accordance with the Japan-U.S. security treaty, as well as the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture, despite strong local opposition.

The two countries plan to issue a joint statement after the meeting, stating their affirmation regarding these matters.

Tokyo and Washington had earlier sought to hold the two-plus-two talks sometime before early May. But a July meeting is now being considered as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump agreed to it during their meeting Friday on the sidelines of the Group of Seven industrialized nations’ summit in Italy.