U.S.-Japan to Expand Military Ties for First Time in 16 Years

The U.S. and Japan prepared to revamp their defense alliance for the first time in more than 15 years as they seek to respond to regional security threats from China’s growing military muscle to North Korea’s expanding nuclear arsenal.

“A great deal has changed in this period of time,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said inTokyo. “ There are different threats and different kinds of threats. So it is important for us to recognize that this bilateral alliance remains a vital element of our respective national security strategies.”

Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with their Japanese counterparts today as part of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting, where the U.S. reconfirmed its commitment “to the security of Japan through the full range of of U.S. military capabilities, including nuclear and conventional,” according to a joint statement from the two governments.

The two countries pledged to create “a more robust alliance” at a time when China is boosting military spending and expanding its naval reach and North Korea is increasing the range of its ballistic missiles and threatening neighbors with nuclear attacks. Almost 70 years after the U.S. imposed a pacifist constitution on Japan, the Asian nation is considering reinterpreting the document to allow for collective self defense.

China Tensions

China has denounced the expanding of the alliance and what it sees as a new Japanese militarism. Tensions between the two Asian nations have remained high since Japan purchased three disputed islands in the East China Sea in September 2012. Since then Chinese patrol boats have regularly plied the waters near the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China to challenge Japan’s claims of sovereignty.

The U.S. reaffirmed its position that the Senkaku remain under Japanese administration, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at a press conference with Kerry and Hagel after the talks.

The U.S. also used the meeting to announce the location of a second missile-defense radar to be deployed in Japan and the two countries discussed existing plans to shift 5,000 marines from a base in Okinawa to Guam as the U.S. seeks to reduce the impact of its forces on local communities in Japan.

As part of a deeper alliance, the countries pledged to expand cooperation in fighting global terrorism and piracy and work together to provide humanitarian aid, the governments said in the statement. Japan and the U.S. also plan to work with private industry to counter cybersecurituy threats and will seek to leverage space and satellite technology to enhance maritime security, the statement said.

Kerry and Hagel began their day with a visit to Chidorigafuchi, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. officials ever to visit the secular cemetery that honors Japanese veterans, including those that fought against the U.S. in World War II. Visit by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, which also honors veterans including some convicted of war crimes, has fueled tensions with China and South Korea both of which suffered under Japanese occupation.

Source: Bloomberg