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International relations

Suga's national security adviser headed to Washington next week

Two sides to reaffirm strength of alliance under new prime minister

Japan's national security adviser, Shigeru Kitamura, left, will meet with American counterpart Robert O'Brien on Sept. 24. (Kitamura photo by Nikkei; O'Brien photo by Reuters)

TOKYO -- Japan's national security adviser will visit the U.S. next week, carrying the message that the bilateral alliance remains the cornerstone of the Tokyo's foreign policy and national security under the new Suga government.

Shigeru Kitamura plans to meet with American counterpart Robert O'Brien that Thursday.

Kitamura is also expected to convey that Japan will decide on a new policy to defend against incoming missiles by the end of the year, after it halted the introduction of the U.S.-made Aegis Ashore missile defense system.

This will mark the first face-to-face interaction between senior government officials since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office Wednesday. Suga repeatedly said during the leadership race that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the linchpin of the nation's foreign policy.

Suga's predecessor Shinzo Abe established a personal relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump and was widely credited with strengthening the alliance. The decision to retain Kitamura, a trusted Abe aide, as national security adviser signaled that Suga wanted continuity in foreign policy.

On missile defense, Kitamura will update O'Brien on the latest discussions in Tokyo over the alternative to Aegis Ashore, as well as whether Japan should have enemy-base strike capabilities to thwart an imminent missile launch.

Abe had announced that the government, in consultation with the ruling parties, would present a plan by year-end.

Other topics in East Asia, such as the denuclearization of North Korea and Chinese maritime advances in the South and East China seas, will also be discussed.

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