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US and Japanese defence ministers to discuss China

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US and Japanese defence ministers to discuss China

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Photo: Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS

Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono and his US counterpart Mark Esper are expected to meet in Guam today to discuss a wide range of security issues.

Tensions over the South China Sea and Taiwan are likely to be a focus of today’s discussions. China declared a travel exclusion zone in the South China Sea earlier this week and Chinese forces subsequently fired four medium-range “carrier killer” missiles as part of continuing drills in the disputed waters. Washington has responded to China’s ongoing military activity in the region by deploying two aircraft carriers and declaring Chinese maritime claims illegal.

The missile launches are almost certainly a short-term response to Chinese forces observing a US U-2 spy plane passing through a no-fly zone near a Chinese drill site. Today’s talks are likely to discuss this incident and lead to a joint statement from Tokyo and Washington further condemning Chinese claims of territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea. Should relations with the US over trade and the origins of COVID-19 continue to deteriorate, expect in the short to medium-term continued military drills and other provocations in the region, potentially drawing Japan and other allies like India and Australia to ramp up their drills and testing activity as well.

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