Japan's defence chief and foreign minister will meet their US counterparts on Thursday to reaffirm Washington's commitment to defending Japan, including the use of its nuclear deterrent, as threats from North Korea intensify.
Japan's Minister of Defence, Itsunori Onodera, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taro Kono, travel to the US capital this week for "two-plus-two" meetings with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Japanese government announced on Tuesday.
The meetings come with tensions high in East Asia with North Korea threatening to fire missiles into the waters close to the US Pacific territory of Guam. The missiles would have to fly over Japan to reach their target worrying Tokyo that warheads or missile debris could fall on its territory.
US President Donald Trump has warned of "fire and fury" if North Korea threatens the United States, and said the US military is "locked and loaded".
"The strategic environment is becoming harsher and we need to discuss how we will respond to that," a Japanese foreign ministry official said in a briefing in Tokyo. "We will look for the US to reaffirm it defence commitment, including the nuclear deterrent," he added.
Under Japan's alliance treaty with the United States, Washington has pledged to defend Japan. It has put Japan under its nuclear umbrella, meaning it could respond to any attack on Japan with atomic weapons.
A renewed commitment by Washington to that promise would reassure Tokyo as it looks to bolster its defences against possible North Korean military action.