Promote concrete measures to strengthen Japan-U.S. alliance

The security environment surrounding Japan is rapidly deteriorating. In order to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance, Japan itself needs to play a greater role.

The two countries held a meeting of the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee, also known as the 2-plus-2 security talks, involving each country’s foreign and defense chiefs. The talks were the first since March last year and the first for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

It is unfortunate that the meeting was held online due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, but it is significant that it demonstrated the strong solidarity between Japan and the United States to the international community.

The joint statement of the committee expressed concern over the “rapid and opaque military expansion” and the “large-scale development and deployment of … advanced weapons systems,” with countries such as China in mind. It then stressed the need to “constantly modernize the Alliance and strengthen joint capabilities.”

Hypersonic weapons and new types of missiles flying on irregular trajectories, which China, Russia and North Korea are developing and deploying, are difficult to intercept with the current missile defense system. Japan and the United States urgently need to incorporate advanced technology into their equipment and drastically improve their response capabilities.

China has increased its defense spending nearly tenfold in the past 20 years, and in the Western Pacific it has become a military power that surpasses even the U.S. military. North Korea has also repeatedly conducted missile tests, increasing the threat.

The Japanese and U.S. governments must face up to the growing security challenges and enhance their deterrence and response capabilities.

The four ministers agreed to accelerate their collaboration on emerging technologies. They also said that they concurred on conducting a joint analysis focused on future cooperation in the detection and interception of hypersonic weapons.

The Kishida administration plans to revise the national security strategy and other documents by the end of the year. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is also said to be in the final stages of formulating its national security strategy. The two countries are urged to align their strategies so that the alliance can play a more effective role.

It is said that regarding measures against missile attacks, the Japanese side conveyed its intention to consider all options, including possessing an enemy base strike capability, and confirmed that it would work closely with the U.S. side.

It is hoped that the two countries will further discuss concrete measures on how to strengthen deterrence. With regard to economic security issues, such as preventing the outflow of advanced technology and strengthening supply networks, it is important to engage in dialogue at various levels and take the lead in creating rules for the international community.

The four ministers also discussed the issue of coronavirus infections spreading at U.S. military bases in Japan, including those in Okinawa Prefecture.

The presence of U.S. forces in Japan is essential for maintaining peace in the region, but without the understanding of local residents, the forces cannot be stationed there on a stable basis. The U.S. side should recognize this more strongly.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 8, 2022.