Strong Japan-U.S. Alliance Remains Cornerstone of International Order

Demonstrating both at home and abroad the strong unity of the Japan-U.S. alliance can be said to be highly significant now that the international order is being shaken.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with U.S. President Joe Biden for about two hours in Washington. This was the third in-person summit between the two leaders, after ones held in May and November.

The security environment around Japan has deteriorated significantly. It is important for the leaders of these two countries to foster trust.

During the meeting, the prime minister notified Biden about Japan’s plan to significantly expand defense spending to strengthen defense capabilities, emphasizing that “this will be beneficial for the deterrence capabilities and response capabilities of the alliance as well.”

Biden expressed strong support for Japan’s efforts, saying, “The United States is fully, thoroughly, completely committed to the alliance and, more importantly, to Japan’s defense — the defense of Japan.”

A pillar of Japan’s plan to enhance defense capabilities is to acquire counterattack capabilities. The alliance is entering a new phase, shifting from the past relationship in which the Self-Defense Forces were supposed to act solely on “defense” and the U.S. military on “offense.”

China has been making routine its incursions into Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands, while North Korea has been launching missiles at an unprecedented rate. It is only natural that Japan should improve its own response capabilities. Japan and the United States need to hold multilayered discussions to come up with specific measures to enhance deterrence.

Policy toward China was a major theme during their talks.

In the joint statement released after the meeting, the two leaders clearly stated that China is taking “actions inconsistent with the rules-based international order” and reaffirmed a policy to strive for maintaining “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

China has been stepping up its intimidation of Taiwan. Recently, Chinese fighter jets and drones have entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. In the event of a Taiwan contingency, the Nansei Islands that span Okinawa Prefecture and southern Kagoshima Prefecture would also be at risk. It is essential to enhance the joint response capabilities of the U.S. forces stationed in Japan and the SDF.

The two leaders also agreed to cooperate in the development of advanced technologies in such fields as semiconductors, quantum technology and biotechnology. From the perspective of economic security, it is appropriate for the allies to deepen technological cooperation.

Prior to his visit to the United States, Kishida, as this year’s chair of the Group of Seven nations, visited three European countries — France, Italy and the United Kingdom — and Canada, in part to lay the groundwork for the G7 summit to be held in Hiroshima in May.

The prolonged crisis in Ukraine has raised concerns about “support fatigue” in the international community. There is also a difference in positions between Western nations and emerging economies in Africa and elsewhere over sanctions against Russia.

How can views be consolidated on expanding support for Ukraine and strengthening sanctions against Russia? It is important for Japan to play a leading role.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 15, 2023)