Align national security strategies to deepen bilateral alliance

This is the first defense-related crisis of this magnitude that Japan has faced since the end of World War II. In light of the growing threats, it is significant that the Japanese and U.S. defense ministers have confirmed their cooperation in a wide range of areas.

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the outskirts of Washington for about 1½ hours.

The two agreed that Japan and the United States will look into joint research to establish technologies to counter hypersonic weapons being developed by China and North Korea. They also agreed to share information gathered by Japanese and U.S. drones, to strengthen surveillance of China’s maritime activities.

The latest ministerial talks can be said to have further advanced security cooperation between Japan and the United States based on their alliance.

Both Tokyo and Washington are currently devising new national security strategies. It is hoped that the two countries will align their respective strategies through close consultations.

Hamada conveyed to his U.S. counterpart that Japan is considering possessing so-called counterstrike capabilities against armed attacks. Austin expressed his “strong support” for the move.

Japan’s security policy has been based on the idea of relying on the U.S. military for offense, while the Self-Defense Forces’ role is limited to defense. However, the national power of the United States has relatively declined. For the SDF, defense alone is not sufficient to cope with crises.

It is appropriate for the SDF and the U.S. military to complement each other’s capabilities at this time.

Enhancing the ability to deter an opponent from attacking, through the possession of counterstrike capabilities, is important. This does not contradict the defense-only principle of using defensive force just when the nation comes under an armed attack by an opponent and minimizing the ways in which a counterstrike can be made.

A major challenge is how to ensure the effectiveness of counterstrike capabilities. In practice, various abilities are needed, such as accurately identifying military targets and avoiding jamming signals. The SDF cannot carry out such operations on its own, so cooperation from the U.S. military is indispensable.

It is vital that Japan and the United States work together to develop operational plans and conduct joint training repeatedly.

Regarding “extended deterrence” to protect Japan with U.S. military power, including nuclear capabilities, Austin stressed Washington’s “unwavering commitment.” It is hoped that Japan will confirm through various opportunities the U.S. stance on exercising the U.S. military’s strike capability at a time of emergency.

The two defense chiefs shared the view that cybersecurity measures are “crucially important.” Hamada stated Tokyo’s intention to bolster such measures.

A great deal of SDF radar and other equipment have been developed jointly with the United States and other countries. If classified information is leaked from the Defense Ministry or entities in the domestic defense industry, Japan’s credibility will suffer.

The government should swiftly take such steps as helping the defense industry to make capital investments in cybersecurity measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 18, 2022)