• Kyodo

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Defense Minister Taro Kono is arranging talks with his U.S. counterpart Mark Esper for Aug. 29 when he visits Guam, Defense Ministry sources said Wednesday, with China and North Korea expected to be high on their agenda.

It would be the Japanese minister’s first overseas trip since he refrained from traveling due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, having last attended an international conference in Germany in February.

Kono and the U.S. defense secretary are expected to discuss how to deal with China’s increasing maritime assertiveness in the East and South China seas, where Beijing has been stepping up territorial claims, the sources said.

The two are also likely to discuss Japan’s deterrence against North Korean missile threats following its decision in June to scrap plans to deploy the U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore missile defense system.

Kono plans to head to the U.S. Pacific territory on a Self-Defense Forces aircraft and hold talks with Esper at a U.S. base there, according to the sources.

Kono and Esper held a videoconference in early July with Linda Reynolds, their counterpart in Australia, during which they reaffirmed their “strong opposition” to the use of force or coercion that could alter the status quo and increase tensions in the East and South China seas, apparently with China in mind.

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