• Kyodo

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Defense Minister Taro Kono said Friday he will visit Guam to hold talks with his U.S. counterpart Mark Esper to discuss regional missile defense as tensions rise between the United States and China.

“Given the current security situation, it is important to have a face-to-face discussion,” Kono told a news conference. “I want to discuss where we stand in our defense cooperation” when the two meet on Saturday, he added.

The defense chiefs’ first direct talks since January come after Pentagon officials said China fired four ballistic missiles into the South China Sea on Wednesday in an apparent warning against U.S. reconnaissance planes flying near areas where China has been conducting naval drills.

During the meeting at Andersen Air Force Base, the two are also expected to discuss Japan’s deterrence against North Korean missile threats following Tokyo’s decision in June to scrap the deployment of Aegis Ashore, the U.S.-developed missile defense system, Japanese defense officials said.

Other issues on the agenda include enhanced cooperation between the two allies in fields such as outer space, cyberspace and electronic warfare, they said.

Kono will head to the U.S. territory aboard a Self-Defense Forces aircraft for his first overseas trip since February, when he attended an international conference in Germany.

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