March 9 (UPI) -- The United States and Japan are expected to address topics of mutual concern regarding China during an upcoming meeting of top defense and diplomatic officials.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are expected to meet with their respective counterparts, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, during an inaugural "2+2" ministerial meeting of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, the Nikkei reported Tuesday.
The meeting is to take place from Monday to Wednesday next week, and the "strengthening of U.S.-Japan deterrence against China" is expected to be on top of the agenda, according to the report.
The first face-to-face ministerial meeting comes at a time of increased tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea. Both countries claim the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyutai Islands as their own.
In February, China permitted its coast guard to fire at boats entering Chinese-claimed waters. Japan has responded with a decision to permit Japanese vessels to also use firearms. During next week's meeting, U.S. and Japanese officials are expected to express shared concerns about China's new coast guard law, the Nikkei reported.
The decision to address China by name could be an unprecedented move for 2+2 participants. According to the Nikkei, Tokyo and Washington have refrained from criticizing Beijing in past consultative meetings, but President Joe Biden and Blinken have designated China as the United States' biggest competitor in foreign policy speeches.
Report of the planned meeting between U.S. and Japanese officials comes at a time when the United States also could be holding a virtual summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad.
CNN reported Tuesday the leaders of United States, Japan, India and Australia will meet virtually this week for the first time since Biden assumed office.
China in February warned the United States against taking a position on the Senkakus in February, which Beijing's foreign ministry has referred to as China's "inherent territory."