Newly appointed Defense Minister Minoru Kihara is scheduled to visit Washington early next month for a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a source close to the matter have said.
Among the topics expected to be discussed at the talks is what role the United States will play in Japan's operation of its newly authorized "counterstrike capabilities," the ability to strike enemy targets, including missile launchpads, to deter attacks on its territory, the source said Tuesday.
Kihara, known as a pro-Taiwan lawmaker, will visit the United States for the first time since he became the defense minister in a Cabinet reshuffle on Sept. 13. He will also hold in-person talks with Austin for the first time since he succeeded Yasukazu Hamada.
During their meeting, Kihara and Austin are set to affirm the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance, the source said, amid the challenging security environment posed by China's military buildup and North Korea's missile and nuclear threats.
Kihara and Austin, meanwhile, are likely to discuss what form collaboration between Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military should take after the SDF sets up a permanent joint command to oversee its ground, maritime and air units as early as 2025, the source said.
The other possible items on the agenda are further supportive measures for Ukraine, which has been under invasion by Russia since February 2022, the situation surrounding the Taiwan Strait, and Japan's ongoing review on easing its arms export ban, the source added.
In December 2022, the Japanese government revamped the National Security Strategy, its long-term defense policy guidelines, pledging to acquire counterstrike capabilities and almost double its annual defense budget over five years through fiscal 2027.