Photo/IllutrationThe Maritime Self-Defense Force resupply vessel Tokiwa, left, and the Royal Navy frigate Sutherland perform refueling procedures off the Kanto region at the first joint exercise between Japan and Britain on April 27, 2018. (Provided by the Maritime Self-Defense Forces)

The Japanese government is considering entering a visiting forces agreement with Britain to tighten defense cooperation between the two nations, government-related sources said April 4.

The agreement would determine the legal status of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the British military when visiting each other's country to conduct joint drills and dispatch troops in response to natural disasters.

In spring 2018, the British military held a joint exercise with the Maritime Self-Defense Force in waters off the Kanto region, and then with the Ground SDF in autumn.

The agreement would enable such joint drills and other activities to take place more smoothly, according to sources. Tokyo has already made arrangements at the working level to start negotiations with the British side.

A discussion on when to start talks was originally supposed to take the form of a “two plus two” meeting of the countries' respective foreign and defense ministers on April 8.

However, the British side requested it be postponed owing to uncertainty surrounding Britain leaving the European Union.

Tokyo will reschedule a two plus two meeting with the aim of starting negotiations.

Japan has also had talks with Australia over visiting forces. But Japan's use of the death penalty has hampered negotiations, as Australia has expressed concern that its military personnel could be sentenced to death under Japanese law.