Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, joined by U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, will meet virtually with Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Japanese Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo Jan. 6, for the 2022 U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee ("2+2") Meeting.
John F. Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, held a news conference today to discuss this and other topics.
The 2+2 Meeting has long been a high-level forum for U.S.-Japan foreign and defense policy cooperation and the defense secretary looks forward to having productive discussions, Kirby said.
During the meeting, the delegations will discuss ways the United States and Japan can strengthen their alliance to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region and to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and other global challenges, he said.
Austin, who was diagnosed with COVID-19, Jan. 2, has mild symptoms but is in good spirits, Kirby said.
The defense secretary is working in isolation from home and is following all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. He's very much looking forward to returning to the Pentagon and traveling abroad to meet with allies and partners when he is cleared by his physician to do so, perhaps as early as the end of this week, Kirby added.
Regarding any possible future attacks by Iranian-backed militia groups on U.S. service members in the Middle East, Kirby said commanders have the right of inherent self-defense and have all of the necessary capabilities at their disposal. They have also prepared for defensive measures against rocket and drone attacks. "We're very mindful of the threat environment and it is very dynamic right now."
The Defense Department has service members in Iraq on an advise and assist mission in partnership with Iraqi security force partners, Kirby noted, adding that there are roughly 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq and less than 1,000 in Syria.