U.S. Envoy Hails Japan’s Rapid Defense Policy Advances

The Japan News
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Thursday.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, speaking at a press conference in Tokyo on Thursday, reflected on his first two years in the position and said that a significant shift in Japan’s defense and security policies is bringing the country into closer alignment with other regional partners to address challenges in the Indo-Pacific area.

“Japan has moved forward on defense, at a quickening pace,” Emanuel said of changes in Japan’s defense policy.

Referring to Japan’s 2022 revision of three key national security and defense documents that collectively define Japan’s foreign and defense policies, he said, “No one predicted that Japan would so fundamentally update these three national security documents.”

He further added that through these actions, Japan has “joined the United States, Australia, [South] Korea and many other partners with an aligned vision of how to promote peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and meet the challenges.”

The ambassador referred to the fact that Japan is committed to increasing its defense and security-related spending over five years to reach 2% of gross domestic product by 2027. He added that although NATO countries made a similar 2% commitment, only 11 of the 31 NATO allies are actually expected to meet that target this year.

He also noted that Japan has made “three historic decisions” regarding its defense capabilities. First, the planned acquisition of counterstrike capabilities with 400 Tomahawk missiles starting in 2025. Second, for the first time since the end of World War II, providing nonlethal military assistance to a nation in conflict, specifically by delivering such aid to Ukraine. And third, easing the three principles governing the transfer of defense equipment.

Emanuel said that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s planned official visit to the United States will “set the stage for what comes next. We will consolidate what we’ve already achieved into a springboard to reach what will be achieved in the years ahead.”

With regard to Japan’s soft power, Emanuel talked about Shohei Ohtani, saying, “I can’t overstate the power of a two-time Major League Baseball most valuable player, a two-way star and the highest paid baseball player ever.”

The ambassador added that tour groups in the United States are “overrun with Ohtani tourism” as visitors line up to see the star play from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to Fenway Park in Boston.