Japan and U.S. eye two-plus-two security talks in January

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Japan and the United States are considering holding security talks involving their foreign and defense ministers in January to reinforce their alliance in dealing with China’s increasing military assertiveness, Japanese government sources said Sunday.

Arrangements are being made for Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi to visit the United States for the so-called two-plus-two meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the sources said.

Tokyo and Washington are expected to agree to continue working closely on realizing the denuclearization of North Korea as well as maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, where tensions have grown with China due to its stepping up of its military activities, the sources said.

The in-person meeting will likely be held after Tokyo decides in December to shoulder more of the costs of stationing U.S. troops in Japan from fiscal 2022 in response to a request from Washington, with the ministers signing the cost-sharing accord, they said.

Japan and the United States last held a two-plus-two security meeting in Tokyo in March. The two nations had initially hoped to hold the next meeting by the end of this year, but they are now expected to push it back due to Japanese political events in December, the sources said.

The security talks will be the first involving ministers of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet launched in October. Japan and the United States are also arranging to hold a summit meeting, but a date has not been set yet.

Japan’s annual defense spending has been on the rise in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, and China’s rise, with the Defense Ministry requesting a budget of ¥5.47 trillion ($48 billion) for fiscal 2022 starting in April.

Kishida’s Cabinet is expected to approve the draft budget in December.

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