TOKYO/WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The leaders of the United States and Japan will contend with China's growing might, North Korea's missiles and Russia's aims in Ukraine when they hold their first substantial talks since Fumio Kishida became Japanese prime minister last October.
The online meeting between US President Joe Biden and Kishida, scheduled for Friday Washington time, will build on this month's so-called "two-plus-two" discussions when their defence and foreign ministers pledged to work together against efforts to destabilise the Indo-Pacific region.
Alarm over China's growing assertiveness, tensions over Taiwan, and shared concern over Ukraine have raised Japan's global profile on security matters, while North Korea has ramped up tensions with an unusually rapid series of missile tests.
Pyongyang, which fired tactical guided missiles this week in its latest of a series of tests, warned on Thursday it might rethink a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Japanese counterpart Akiba Takeo set the agenda on Thursday when they spoke about their respective approaches to North Korea, China and economic issues in the Indo-Pacific, the White House said.
"Sullivan underscored concern about the possibility of further Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the two concurred on the importance of solidarity in signaling to Moscow the strong, united response that would result from any attack," a White House statement said.
Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for Asia under former president Barack Obama and now with Asia Society Policy Institute, said the two-plus-two meeting showed Washington and Tokyo were on the same wavelength.
"We should expect their discussion to focus on practical measures to deter and defend against destabilising behaviour, whether from North Korea or in hot spots like the Taiwan Strait and the South and East China Seas," he said.
China has stepped up military and diplomatic pressure to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, an island it claims as its own.
The allies' messaging on China becomes all the more important as both leaders face elections this year, in the upper house of parliament in July for Kishida and midterm congressional elections in November for Biden.
"As the election approaches, I think Kishida will be called upon to show a resolute stance against China, and the United States is in the same position," said Airo Hino of Tokyo's Waseda University.
Both nations are reviewing their security strategy, with details expected to be unveiled later in the year. Japan has approved record defence spending for 2022.
Japan will be looking not just at strategy but all its defence programmes, including procurement, its ambassador to the US, Koji Tomita, told a Brookings Institution event on Tuesday.
"The new review will have a much sharper focus on what's happening in the Asia-Pacific region. And I think the picture we are having in this region is increasingly troubling."
Japan will beef up its defences of islands near Taiwan, Kishida said this week, following a promise in October to revise security strategy so as to consider "all options, including possession of so-called enemy-strike capabilities."