Adm. John Aquilino, the new commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, will visit Japan in the latter half of May for talks with defense leaders about China's growing military pressure on Taiwan and Beijing's assertive behavior in the broader Indo-Pacific, according to Japanese and U.S. government sources.
During his first trip to Japan since assuming leadership on April 30, Aquilino plans to meet with Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and Gen. Koji Yamazaki, chief of the Self-Defense Forces Joint Staff, to discuss regional issues such as Beijing's assertive claims over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs.
The Taiwan issue drew attention in the meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington last month and during the Group of Seven foreign ministerial talks in London earlier this month.
The Japanese government is considering arranging a meeting between Suga and Aquilino, with the two countries aiming to bolster ties and present a robust alliance, according to the sources.
During the admiral's visit, the two allies aim to underscore their increased cooperation toward realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific as well, according to the sources.
In March, Adm. Philip Davidson, Aquilino's predecessor, warned China's threat could be more imminent than perceived.
China could invade Taiwan "in the next six years," Davidson told the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
Aquilino told senators at a confirmation hearing in the same month, "My opinion is this problem is much closer to us than most think," but he declined to weigh in on Davidson's assessment of the six-year timeframe.
The Japanese government is studying possible responses by the SDF in the event of a military conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan within the strict confines of its national security laws and the war-renouncing Constitution.
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