Blinken, Austin to host Japanese officials in January

Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives remarks following the final U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host his Japanese counterpart as part of a high-level security meeting between diplomatic and defense officials early next month, a source familiar with the meeting told The Hill.

The meeting on Jan. 7, called the 2+2 dialogue, will include Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, the source added.

The last 2+2 ministerial was held in Tokyo in March and marked the first overseas trip for Blinken and Austin. It served as a strong signal that allies in Asia and the Pacific would be at the center of the Biden administration’s foreign policy.

The close alliance with Japan is viewed as vital in countering China’s ambitions, whether militarily in the Indo-Pacific or providing a counter to Beijing’s economic coercion in the region and globally.

A State Department spokesperson did not comment on the date of the 2+2 meeting, but confirmed reports that Japan is increasing its financial support for hosting U.S. troops under a new five-year agreement beginning in 2022.

The U.S. and Japan in February had signed a one-year extension of the previous agreement, amid the transition between the Trump and Biden administrations.

“We can confirm that representatives of the Governments of the United States and Japan have reached consensus on the contents of a new proposed Special Measures Agreement and Host Nation Support Framework between the United States and Japan,” the spokesperson said, adding that further details “will be released after the agreement is concluded.”

“The proposed agreement represents a modernized, forward-looking framework under which U.S. forces in Japan help ensure security and regional stability,” the spokesperson added. “It promotes greater mutual investment in defense and improvements to our forces’ interoperability. It includes an increase in cost-sharing contributions from Japan.”

Japan announced on Tuesday that it is increasing financial support to host U.S. troops by 5 percent over fiscal year 2016 through 2021 levels, or up to $9.2 billion over five years, the Japan Times reported.

Under the one-year extension signed in February, Japan agreed to pay $1.9 billion as part of the arrangement for hosting American troops.

The new five-year deal and cost-sharing increase marks a win for President Biden, and is seen as a sign of easing relations between Washington and Tokyo that were strained during the former Trump administration.

Former President Trump had pushed for Tokyo to quadruple its cost-sharing of hosting U.S. troops or risk losing their presence on the island nation.

Masashi Mizobuchi, spokesperson for the Embassy of Japan, did not comment on the upcoming meeting but said Japan and the U.S. “agree on the recognition that it is necessary to further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. alliance in an effective manner as the security environment in the region becomes even more severe. Having shared this recognition, we have held a series of consultations.”

Mizobuchi added that the announced five-year host-nation agreement “intends to lay the foundation to solidify the Japan-U.S. alliance further, including improving the readiness of the Self Defense Forces and its interoperability with the US forces.”

Updated at 5:27 p.m.

Tags Antony Blinken Donald Trump Japan Joe Biden Lloyd Austin

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