Japan, U.S. to review defense role-sharing

Courtesy of the Foreign Ministry
Clockwise from upper left, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attend the Japan-U.S. two-plus-two meeting via video conference.

The Japanese and U.S. governments announced a plan that will lead to a review of defense role-sharing between the two countries at their two-plus-two meeting of foreign and defense ministers held online on Friday.

At the meeting, officially named the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee meeting, the Japanese side effectively announced that the government is considering possessing capabilities of destroying enemy bases, such as missile launch sites, for self-defense purposes.

Traditionally, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have worked as a shield for defense and U.S. forces have worked as a sword for attacking.

The Japanese government aims to closely collaborate with the U.S. side on revising three related policy documents, including the National Security Strategy, late this year.

A joint statement released after the meeting states, “Japan expressed its resolve to examine all options necessary for national defense including capabilities to counter missile threats,” in regard to the envisioned capabilities for attacking enemy bases.

It means that Japan reiterated its willingness to play more proactive roles for security purposes.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party will begin discussions on possessing the attack capabilities in the middle of this month and plans to include the issue in its campaign pledges for the next House of Councillors election.

To counter the hypersonic weapon technologies that China, Russia and North Korea are developing, Japan and the United States also confirmed a stance that the two countries will implement joint analyses.

As hypersonic weapons fly toward targets at speeds of Mach 5 or greater, it is difficult for current missile defense systems to intercept them. Thus the advent of hypersonic weapons is called a game-changer that could drastically change military power balances.

A source in the Japanese government explained that analyzing hypersonic weapons “is not only for missile defense,” suggesting a view that Japan and the United States will jointly develop striking capabilities in the future.

Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at the meeting, “From a perspective of responding to hypersonic weapons, I want to make progresses on the possibility that Japan and the United States will cooperate regarding a satellite constellation.”

A satellite constellation is a monitoring network in which a large number of small satellites are connected and operated together. Kishi referred to a vision that by using a satellite constellation, Japan and the United States will be able to jointly detect hypersonic missiles.

At the meeting, Japan and the United States also agreed on a policy of proceeding with joint research for accelerating technological innovation in emerging fields, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing technology.

Behind this stance is an urgent sense that Japan and the United States may be at risk of lagging behind China in technological developments in such fields as space, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum.

It is expected that the United States will soon announce its national security strategy for the first time under the administration of President Joe Biden.

This time’s two-plus-two meeting was also for discussing shared tasks and establishing closer cooperation ahead of renewals of the two countries’ respective national security strategies.