US, Japan eye rewrite of military cooperation pact

It also comes as the Pentagon continues to pursue its overarching strategic shift into the region. 

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The meeting will be the first time a bilateral security summit between the United States and Tokyo will be held on Japanese soil.  

The regional security pact has been in place since 1951, forged in the aftermath of World War II. 

The last time American and Japanese officials updated the security pact was in 1997. 

Japanese military forces are regulated to a self-defense force under the terms of the security pact, preventing Tokyo from launching offensive military operations. 

But as potential regional threats from China and North Korea threaten Japan's borders, U.S. officials are ready to consider lifting that ban. 

"That is a discussion we have yet to have" with Tokyo, the official said on including preemptive strike authority for Japan into the agreement. 

That said, Hagel and Kerry plan to hash over base guidelines of the security agreement as a first step to rewriting the terms of the pact, the official noted. 

"And at the core of those guidelines is capabilities," including a possible first-strike capability for Japan, he added. 

Regional tensions flared between Tokyo and Beijing last year over a hotly-contested island chain in the South China Sea. 

Diaoyutai Islands — located off the coastlines of Japan, China and Taiwan — has routinely been a flashpoint for conflict between the two Asian nations. 

Last September, then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta agreed to begin running aerial intelligence operations over the islands, flown by American unmanned drones stationed in Guam and elsewhere in the Pacific. 

Along with the U.S. drones, DOD officials are reportedly considering plans to increase the number of attack submarines and long-range bombers in the Pacific, as part of the Pentagon's Asia-Pacific strategy.