Japan, U.S., Australian Defense Ministers to Ink Pact; Deal Will Strengthen Research Cooperation

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Defense Minister Minoru Kihara

WASHINGTON ― Japan, the United States and Australia are in the final phases of preparation to sign a document on a deal to promote joint research and development in the defense field at Thursday’s trilateral defense ministers meeting in Hawaii, a senior U.S. Defense Department official told The Yomiuri Shimbun and some other media on Tuesday.

The official also said the command-and-control system of U.S. forces in Japan will be reevaluated, with a goal of completing the review by March 2025.

Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles will be in Hawaii to attend the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s Change of Command Ceremony. The three are expected to agree on a deal and sign an agreement before the ceremony.

The document will include agreements on the standardization of equipment and advanced information-sharing on research, development and testing. The official said the deal would enhance the interoperability of equipment and make cooperation more efficient and cost-effective.

In January, Japan agreed with Australia to conduct joint research on autonomous underwater vehicles, while working with the United States to analyze technologies to counter hypersonic weapons being developed by China and Russia. Trilaterally, the countries are conducting research on unmanned aerial vehicles linked to fighter jets. The upcoming deal is expected to expand current bilateral cooperation efforts in advanced technologies to a trilateral framework.

The official also said the reevaluation of command and control structures between the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. forces in Japan is expected to be an agenda item at Thursday’s Japan-U.S. defense ministers meeting. The official said the U.S. side was intensively studying what would be the best way to organize the U.S. forces in Japan and what it will be necessary to equip them with.

The official said the U.S. side would hasten the reevaluation so that it can be realized in time for Japan’s establishment at the end of fiscal 2024 of the SDF Joint Operations Command that would strengthen the integrated operations of its ground, maritime and air forces.