National / Politics

Japan and Britain plan April talks among foreign and defense ministers

Kyodo

Japan and Britain are arranging a meeting of their foreign and defense ministers on April 8 in Tokyo, aiming to enhance post-Brexit bilateral cooperation, government sources said Saturday.

Japan hopes to leverage closer ties with Britain, which is set to leave the European Union in late March, in advancing Tokyo’s broader initiative to create a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of growing maritime assertiveness by China.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya will sit down with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.

The fourth round of the “two-plus-two” talks is expected to see the ministers explore specific areas of cooperation in defense and diplomacy as Japan and Britain — both close U.S. allies — view themselves as “global strategic partners.”

The ministers will likely confirm their cooperation on a global scale in a post-meeting joint statement and commit to promoting basic values such as democracy and the rule of law for the prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region, according to the sources.

In the document, Japan and Britain are considering including the enhancement of joint exercises between the Self-Defense Forces and the British military and deepening cooperation in defense equipment technology, the sources said.

The ministers may also take up issues related to North Korea and coordinate efforts to ensure Pyongyang gives up its nuclear weapons and missiles and stops ship-to-ship transfers of goods in violation of U.N. sanctions.

The meeting will come at a time when both nations apparently see the need for increasing economic ties as uncertainty continues over the process of Britain’s planned departure from the EU bloc on March 29.

Japanese automakers have taken a fresh look at their operations in recent weeks. Honda Motor Co. has announced it will close its plant in England in 2021, at a cost of 3,500 jobs, prompting British Prime Minister Theresa May to describe the announcement as “deeply disappointing.”

The decision follows rival Nissan Motor Co.’s cancellation of a plan to produce the redesigned X-Trail SUV at its Sunderland plant in northeastern England as part of efforts to optimize its regional investment strategy.

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