Expedite alignment of Japan, U.S. security strategies

The deepening of the Japan-U.S. alliance is significant in light of new national security and defense strategies compiled respectively by the Japanese and U.S. governments. It can be said that their concrete plans have made significant progress.

A Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee meeting of foreign and defense chiefs, also known as the 2-plus-2 security talks, was held in Washington.

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada explained Japan’s policy of strengthening its defense capabilities by substantially increasing the defense budget. Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi emphasized the Japanese government’s intention to contribute to the stability of the international community. The U.S. side expressed its “strong support” for Japan’s national security policies.

In its National Security Strategy, the United States has positioned China as “the only competitor” and has indicated a policy of enhancing cooperation with allies and other countries. Japan has stated it will possess counterattack capabilities and strengthen its response capabilities to deal with new areas such as cyberspace and outer space in its strategy documents.

It is important for the two countries to align their defense policies and make use of the results for joint operations by the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military.

The joint statement by the four ministers in the security talks included a declaration that they will “deepen bilateral cooperation toward the effective employment” of Japan’s counterstrike capabilities.

Japan intends to deploy long-range missiles as part of its counterattack capabilities. But the cooperation of the U.S. military is indispensable to identify enemy military bases and to detect attacks. Japan and the United States should consult closely with each other to enhance the deterrent effect.

A new agreement reached in the bilateral security talks this time is cooperation in outer space. The joint statement clearly stated that space could be covered by Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which stipulates the U.S. obligation to defend Japan.

China and Russia have been developing weapons to attack satellites. But the intelligence-gathering satellites operated by Japan are not currently equipped for defense in the event of attacks. Therefore, it is significant for Japan and the United States to establish a defensive posture for space based on the security treaty.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has indicated that the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Okinawa Prefecture will be reorganized to create a marine littoral regiment by 2025 with a greater emphasis on the defense of Japan’s remote islands.

The regiment is expected to be equipped with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile capabilities, apparently with the aim of preparing for an emergency in the Taiwan Strait.

Japan, too, intends to substantially expand its forces on the Nansei Islands. Japan and the United States need to increase opportunities for joint exercises.

Meanwhile, during a trip to Europe and the United States, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Britain and signed a reciprocal access agreement that will make it easier for the SDF and British military personnel to visit each other’s countries. Britain is the second country after Australia to sign such a defense agreement with Japan.

Expanding the framework of security cooperation beyond the alliance with the United States to European nations will lead to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 13, 2023)