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Japan to set priority on missile defense in security talks with U.S.

Japan plans to propose that priority be placed on discussions on
reinforcement of ballistic missile defense during a security dialogue
with the United States expected to be held late next month in the
wake of recent missile activities by North Korea, a government source
said Saturday.

The two countries' foreign and defense ministers may discuss
their division of roles including whether to have U.S. capabilities
in place to destroy an enemy military base before a ballistic missile
launch, according to the source.

In the first "two-plus-two" security talk by the countries since
U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January, Japan hopes to
reaffirm that Tokyo and Washington are on the same page about their
sense of urgency in dealing with the threat posed by North Korea.

On March 6, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles, three
of which fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of
Japan. The missiles were viewed as possessing an increased strike
accuracy based on how closely they flew.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump agreed the
following day that the North's test-firing of ballistic missiles was
a "clear challenge" to the international community.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and more than 20
ballistic missile tests in 2016 and its leader Kim Jong Un claimed in
a New Year's address that the country was ready to test-fire an
intercontinental ballistic missile, which could reach the U.S.
mainland.

As part of the bolstered ballistic missile defense, the Japanese
government is considering additionally deploying an Aegis vessel
equipped with the Standard Missile-3 interceptor system.

It is also eyeing introduction of the U.S. military's latest
missile defense system Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD,
and land-based Aegis Ashore defense system.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Defense Minister Tomomi
Inada, U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James
Mattis are attending the security dialogue, expected to be held in
the United States. (March 26)