China’s decision to decline a US invitation to hold a meeting between the two defense ministers in Singapore is “regrettable”, Lloyd Austin said during a brief visit to Tokyo.

“I think it’s unfortunate,” Mr. Austin said, stressing that after the recent “provocative interceptions” of American aircraft by Chinese fighters, he was concerned about the possibility of an “incident” that “could get out of hand.”

Mr. Austin arrived in Tokyo to discuss modernizing the U.S.-Japan military alliance in the face of “threats” posed by China, North Korea and Russia, Mr. Austin, who is to take part of an international security conference in Singapore.

Mr Austin, who met his Japanese counterpart Yasukazu Hamada, insisted the two countries faced “shared challenges linked to China’s coercive behaviour”, North Korea’s dangerous provocations and its “war of choice”. Russia (to unleash) on Ukraine.”

“We are united by our interests and shared values,” and “we are taking significant steps to modernize our alliances and strengthen our deterrence,” he said.

He mentioned working with Australia and South Korea and increasing the “pace, scope and breadth” of joint high schools and education.

In late 2022, Japan, a country with a pacifist constitution after World War II, underwent a major change in its national security doctrine. It pledged to increase its military spending to 2% of GDP by 2027, while calling China an “unprecedented strategic challenge” to its security.