TOKYO — The foreign and defense ministers of Japan and the U.S. are expected to meet in Washington on July 14 to discuss increasing missile defense capability and stepping up joint exercises with North Korea in mind.
The two governments are close to agreeing on the exact date. They have been planning to hold the “two-plus-two” meeting next month — the first since the launch of the Trump administration. The last such meeting happened in April 2015.
Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will meet with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss Asia-Pacific security, with a focus on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Before and after this meeting, the foreign ministers will meet on their own, and the same for the defense ministers.
The most urgent issue is how to respond to North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear arms development. The Trump administration considers the country the greatest threat in the region and has not ruled out military action to deal with it. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also has stated that the Pyongyang threat has reached a new level.
Based on instructions from President Donald Trump and Abe, the top diplomatic and defense officials will consider specific security strategies. They will discuss urging China and other countries to carry out the United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea, and imposing sanctions on their own.
Another key topic will be strengthening the defense network against ballistic missiles. Japan plans to deploy the Aegis Ashore system, made in the U.S., and will seek information from the Americans to prepare for deployment. Japan’s medium-term defense plans from fiscal 2019 will reflect this upgrade.
Other topics for discussion may include increasing Aegis Combat System-equipped warships carrying Standard Missile-3 interceptors and a status check on the SM-3 Block IIA long-range interceptor, which Japan and the U.S. are developing jointly.
The U.S. military and the Japan Self-Defense Forces will soon conduct joint training for the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile interceptor in Japan. Since tensions heightened with North Korea in March, the SDF has conducted exercises with nuclear-powered aircraft carriers of the U.S. military. The ministers are likely to discuss stepping up these exercises further in order to boost the containment power of the U.S. and Japan in the Asia-Pacific region.