Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi would attend the 'two-plus-two talks' alongside Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and their U.S. counterparts Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin. | KYODO
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi would attend the “two-plus-two talks” alongside Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and their U.S. counterparts Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin. | KYODO

Japan and the United States are considering holding “two-plus-two” security talks between their foreign and defense ministers soon, possibly in January, diplomatic sources said Wednesday, with the allies facing greater security challenges from China, North Korea and Russia.

The first talks being held in that format between the two nations in about a year would follow a planned revision to Japan’s National Security Strategy by the end of the year. The nation’s long-term security and diplomacy policy guidelines are slated to be updated along with two other key defense documents.

With U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration releasing its first National Security Strategy last month, the two governments will discuss how they can further improve deterrence provided by the alliance and their response capabilities, according to the sources.

In a joint statement issued after their last security talks in January, which were held online, the ministers agreed to “ensure alignment of alliance visions and priorities” through the two governments’ key national security strategy documents to address an “increasingly challenging regional security environment.”

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, and their U.S. counterparts Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin are expected to attend the planned in-person meeting.

Against the backdrop of China’s increasing assertiveness in regional waters, North Korea’s repeated missile testing and Russia’s war in Ukraine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has vowed to significantly strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities. The government aims to articulate plans to acquire a so-called enemy base strike capability in the upcoming security strategy.

Such a capability could alter the long-standing division of roles within the alliance, under which Washington has served as an offensive “spear” and Tokyo as a defensive “shield.”

The sources said the ministers would discuss what the roles should be under the revised security strategies of both countries.

The two countries are also likely to discuss ways to maintain stability across the Taiwan Strait, defend the Tokyo-controlled, Beijing-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and deepen bilateral cooperation in new security domains, such as space and cyberspace, the sources said.

Tensions over Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province, remain elevated. Last month Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country will never renounce the right to use force to bring the democratically governed island under its control.

The White House’s National Security Strategy defined China as “the only competitor” with the intent to reshape the international order and the Indo-Pacific region as “the epicenter of 21st-century geopolitics.”