Hagel to visit Japan in April for talks on defense guidelines

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will visit Japan in early April for talks on such issues as work to review bilateral defense cooperation guidelines, a Defense Department spokesman said Thursday.

After arriving in Japan on April 5, Hagel will meet with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on April 6 before leaving Japan for China the following day, officials familiar with Japan-U.S. relations said.

Hagel will also meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida during his stay in Japan, the officials said, adding Hagel is considering visiting U.S. military bases in Japan.

Hagel last visited Japan in October when he took part in a so-called two-plus-two bilateral foreign and defense ministerial meeting.

Hagel and Onodera are expected to discuss progress in the review of the defense cooperation guidelines, which detail the roles of the U.S. military and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in the event of a contingency under the bilateral security treaty.

"This upcoming trip is an opportunity to discuss those ongoing efforts and as well as other regional security matters," Rear Adm. John Kirby told a press conference.

The foreign and defense ministers from Japan and the United States agreed in the October talks to revise the Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation by the end of this year for the first time since 1997.

The Chinese Defense Ministry has already announced Hagel will visit China from April 7 to 10.

After his China stop, Hagel will become the first U.S. defense chief to visit Mongolia in nearly 10 years, Kirby said.

This visit is an opportunity for Hagel to thank Mongolia, which deployed forces to Iran and Afghanistan, for their contributions and to "talk about ways to enhance our cooperation moving forward," Kirby said.

Before the trip to Asia, Hagel will take part in defense ministerial talks with the Associations of Southeast Asian Nations planned for April 1-3 in Hawaii.