Defense ministers from Korea, Japan set to talk

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Defense ministers from Korea, Japan set to talk

The defense ministers from Korea and Japan are slated to hold bilateral talks on Saturday for the first time in more than four years along the sidelines of an annual three-day regional security forum in Singapore.

Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo plans to meet with his Japanese counterpart Gen Nakatani during the 14th Asian Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, and is expected to tackle key defense issues concerning the two countries, according to government officials from both sides.

Nakatani is also expected to elaborate on newly revised defense cooperation guidelines between Washington and Tokyo, as well as Japan’s move to enable the right to collective self-defense through new national security bills, a key point of concern in Seoul.

The defense talks between the ministers, the first since June 2011, are also likely to involve discussion on enforcing the trilateral alliance with Washington as well as military information and logistics-sharing pacts, such as a bilateral acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, a framework for cooperation that can enable each country to loan each other fuel, transportation, ammunition and other military equipment.

In addition, Han and Nakatani are expected to hold trilateral talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on the same day, during which the issue of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program will be a key issue, especially following Pyongyang’s recent test-fire of a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Observers are also interested to see if Han’s talks with Carter will raise the issue of the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad) on the Korean Peninsula.

The annual forum, hosted by the British think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies, a platform for defense chiefs and other military experts from 27 major Asia-Pacific and European countries to tackle regional security issues, kicked off Friday and runs until Sunday.

Han left Wednesday for Vietnam and arrived in Singapore on Friday to attend the summit’s opening.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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