Review of Japan-U.S. Command, Control Frameworks Praised; Indo-Pacific Command Chief Stresses Value of Cooperation

Courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
John Aquilino, the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, speaks in an interview at the official residence of the U.S. ambassador to Japan on Tuesday.

John Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, praised the decision by Japan and the United States to review their respective “command and control” frameworks to enable the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military to operate in a more integrated manner.

Regarding the agreement made during the Japan-U.S. summit on April 10, Aquilino said “the integration of our two nations militarily to the next step like this is absolutely the right path,” during a Tuesday interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun and other media at the official residence of the U.S. ambassador to Japan in Tokyo.

Command authority over such entities as Marine Corps units deployed to Okinawa Prefecture is held not by the commander of U.S. forces in Japan, but the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command headquartered in Hawaii. It has been pointed out that the geographical distance and time difference could hinder Japan-U.S. coordination in the event of an emergency.

The revision of the command and control frameworks is aimed at strengthening the command functions of the U.S. forces in Japan, to achieve faster coordination with the SDF.

Aquilino said the SDF and U.S. forces are “already taking steps to be more interoperable, to be more synchronized” through exercises. “I think this initiative will enable us to take a look at what that next step looks like,” he said.

Among proposed several measures is the establishment of a new joint task force based in Japan. Aquilino said Defense Minister Minoru Kihara and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will “take a look at this and provide options on what that looks like.”

Regarding the situation in East Asia, Aquilino expressed alarm over China’s aggressive moves against other countries in the East and South China Seas, saying things have gone “faster than I expected.”

Concerned about military ties between China, Russia and North Korea, Aquilino said, “The geopolitical environment we live in is not getting safer, it’s getting more dangerous.”

He emphasized the importance of multilateral cooperation as a countermeasure against such moves, involving Australia, South Korea, the Philippines and others, in addition to Japan and the United States.

“One of the critical important values that we share with all these like-minded nations is the ability for sovereign nations to make sovereign choices. Now, right now, we all have the same belief that by operating together we can prevent this conflict,” he said.

Aquilino became head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in April 2021. He is set to step down on May 3 and will be replaced by U.S. Navy Adm. Samuel Paparo.