US, Japan boost military ties with eye on China

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Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter unveiled new guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation on Monday that will see the East Asian country adopt a greater military role as a counterweight to a rising China. 

The new cooperation “will enhance Japan’s security, deter threats, and contribute to international peace and stability,” Kerry said at a press briefing in New York.

In remarks aimed at China, Kerry said the U.S. rejected any suggestion that air and sea travel through international waters were “subject to the whim and fancy of a big state.” 

{mosads}He also said the U.S.’s security commitment to Japan “remains ironclad” and covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan. 

The new guidelines, outlined in a joint statement, seek to bolster U.S.-Japan coordination and enable Tokyo to participate in more international security initiatives. 

According to a report in Reuters, the guidelines could also allow Japan to come to the defense of the U.S. and other allies.

They also seek to strengthen U.S.-Japan cooperation on space, cyberspace and humanitarian and disaster relief. 

This update to the guidelines is the first since 1997, and it reflects how Japan’s military power has increased since being placed under tight restrictions after World War II.

The changes are a piece of the Obama administration “pivot” to Asia, shifting military assets and diplomatic attention to the region after more than a decade of Middle East warfare. As part of the move, the U.S. is deploying 60 percent of its naval assets to the Asia Pacific.

Kerry added that the U.S.-Japan relationship would serve as the “cornerstone” of peace and security in the region. 

Carter said the new guidelines mark “an important step in the rebalance’s next phase,” and cooperation in new domains of space and cyberspace.

Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Fumio Kishida hailed the guidelines as a “new chapter” in the U.S.-Japan relationship and characterized Japan’s increased military role as a “proactive contribution to peace” by a “peace-loving nation.” 

The joint statement noted the U.S. has deployed the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft to Kadena Air Base, Global Hawk surveillance drones to Misawa Air Base, and the USS Green Bay — an upgraded amphibious transport ship — to Sasebo. The U.S. plans to deploy F-35B Joint Strike Fighters to Japan in 2017. 

The U.S. also plans to deploy additional Aegis ships to Yokosuka Naval Base by 2017 and swap out the aircraft carrier USS George Washington with the more advanced USS Ronald Reagan later this year. 

The joint statement also “stressed the importance” of enhancing regional ballistic missile defense capabilities, including the deployment of a second “X-band” radar to Kyogamisaki in December 2014 and two additional destroyers equipped for missile defense to Japan by 2017. 

The statement also addressed the thorny issue of hosting U.S. bases and troops on Japanese soil. It affirmed Tokyo’s continued support for hosting U.S. troops but “welcomed” the relocation of a KC-130 squadron from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Iwakuni and aviation training to locations outside of Okinawa. 

It also said the two governments are steadily implementing the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps personnel from Okinawa to locations outside of Japan, such as Guam. 

Kerry and Carter met with their counterparts in New York as part of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s meeting with President Obama on Tuesday. 

Tags Ash Carter Japan–United States relations John Kerry John Kerry Military personnel Okinawa Prefecture

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