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Defense Minister Taro Kono’s weekend trip to Guam to meet his U.S. counterpart came as Japan faces a double-barreled challenge of a leadership transition amid the COVID-19 pandemic and China’s growing maritime assertiveness.

The visit came just a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shocked the nation by announcing his intention to resign from his post after a record-setting term in office that saw him rebuild frayed ties with China while also bolstering the Japan-U.S. alliance.

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