Japan defense minister to visit U.S. in May

Japan defense minister to visit U.S. in May

Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi plans to visit the United States in early May for talks with his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin about boosting cooperation amid ongoing tensions due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Kishi is expected to discuss how to deal with North Korea's repeated ballistic missile launches and affirm that the importance of enhancing their bilateral alliance as a deterrent in the face of an increasingly assertive China, according to the sources.

Two months into the Ukraine war, the US and its partners have been ramping up pressure on Russia to end the conflict, which has killed more than 2,200 civilians, according to the United Nations. More than 5 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine because of the war, which has triggered global economic and political repercussions.

Defence and foreign affairs experts are worried that Russia's military aggression could make China attack self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province waiting for reunification.

During their upcoming talks, Kishi and Austin are likely to say that they will not tolerate unilateral attempts to change the status quo in East Asia by force, bearing in mind China's stepped-up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan.

When Kishi and Austin held virtual two-plus-plus two security talks in January, along with Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, they shared in a joint statement on their concerns about China's attempts to undermine the rules-based order and the challenges they pose to the region and world.

Beijing is stepping up its maritime assertiveness in the East and South China Seas.

Japan will look at all options necessary for national defense, including capabilities to counter missile threats, according to a controversial proposal being considered in Japan to acquire enemy base strike capability.

The nation s war-renouncing Constitution makes it politically sensitive to have such a capability, which is aimed at countering growing missile and other security threats in the region. The plan has been the subject of a lot of debate ahead of a major review of national security policy by the end of the year.