• Kyodo

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The top foreign and defense officials from Japan and the United States will hold a meeting in Tokyo next Tuesday to strengthen their countries’ alliance amid an increasingly severe regional security environment, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will visit Japan for three days from Monday, marking their first trips abroad since the launch of U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Jan. 20, according to the Japanese ministry.

Blinken, who will then head to South Korea, plans to reaffirm during his trip to Asia the U.S. commitment to strengthening its alliances and to highlight cooperation that promotes peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, the State Department said.

Austin, who will also later visit South Korea and India, will emphasize that the U.S.-Japan alliance has “never been more resolute and resilient” and that it is “the cornerstone of peace and security in a free and open Indo-Pacific in the face of long-term competition with China,” according to the Defense Department.

On the fringes of the so-called two-plus-two meeting, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will hold bilateral talks with Blinken, and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi with Austin, Japanese officials said.

The two-plus-two meeting between Japan and the United States was previously held in Washington in April 2019.

The four are expected to discuss China’s growing maritime assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, including in the East and South China seas, and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, according to the officials.

Blinken and Austin are also expected to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the officials said.

In Seoul from next Wednesday, the U.S. secretaries will attend a two-plus-two meeting with their South Korean counterparts and meet with other senior officials. Blinken will return to Washington the following day.

Austin, meanwhile, will travel to India to meet with Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and other senior national security leaders to discuss deepening the bilateral defense partnership and advancing cooperation between their countries for a free and open Indo-Pacific, the Defense Department said.

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