The U.S. is reaffirming its close ties to Japan with a visit to Hawaii next week by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to meet with Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara.
A ship-based ballistic missile defense test involving a Japanese destroyer is planned next month off Kauai, meanwhile.
Clinton will arrive here Wednesday for the meeting with Maehara, and on Thursday, for the second time in nine months, she will deliver a policy speech in Honolulu on the United States’ role in the Pacific, officials said.
The State Department said the meeting with Maehara "underscores the enduring importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance as a cornerstone of American engagement in the Asia-Pacific."
Kyodo News International reported that the talks are expected to include the planned move of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, increasing tensions with China, and North Korea issues.
The Hawaii stopover is part of a 13-day trip to Asia and the Pacific by Clinton. She will also travel to Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia.
The State Department said because of travel schedule constraints, Clinton will not attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Japan, but she will represent the U.S. at the East Asia Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.
It was unclear yesterday whether Clinton will meet with U.S. Pacific Command officials at Camp Smith. The command did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Clinton was in Honolulu in mid-January and met with former Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada. She also spoke at the East-West Center before further travels to Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand were postponed by the earthquake crisis in Haiti and Clinton returned to Washington, D.C.
The visit in Hawaii to show solidarity with Japan comes at a time of increasing Chinese assertiveness in the East and South China Seas, which have included run-ins with Japan and the U.S. and increased the nervousness of China’s neighbors.
Last year the U.S. Navy ship Impeccable was harassed by five Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.
China has objected to U.S. and South Korean naval exercises in the Yellow Sea and claimed sovereignty over the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands.
Earlier this month the U.S. affirmed its security commitment to Japan under the 1960 bilateral defense treaty and said the Senkakus were protected under the agreement, according to the think tank the Heritage Foundation.
Around Nov. 7, meanwhile, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force destroyer JS Kirishima will attempt to shoot down a simulated ballistic missile fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands on Kauai, a defense being added as countries such as North Korea continue to develop missile capability.
Japan has ballistic missile shoot-down capability on four Kongo-class destroyers, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said.
The objective of the test will be to verify the recently upgraded Kirishima’s intercept capability, officials said.
The Pearl Harbor-based cruiser Lake Erie and destroyer Paul Hamilton also will participate in the exercise.
Three Japanese destroyers have taken part in shoot-down tests off Kauai since late 2007, with two successful intercepts out of the three attempts.
During a $55 million shoot-down exercise in November 2008, which was paid for by Japan, an "anomaly" occurred with the interceptor missile, and it lost track of the target, officials said.