(CTN NEWS) – WASHINGTON – The US and Japan announced plans Wednesday to bolster their partnership to tackle North Korea and China, the region’s biggest security challenges.
In unusually strong terms, the U.S. and Japanese foreign and defense ministers blasted China’s growing aggression in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere, Russia’s war with Ukraine, and North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
In a joint statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and their Japanese counterparts, Yoshimasa Hayashi and Yasukazu Hamada, called China an “unprecedented” threat to world order and pledged to redouble their efforts.
“China’s foreign policy aspires to restructure the international order to its benefit and to exploit China’s expanding political, economic, military, and technical power,” the statement stated.
“This behavior is of grave concern to the alliance and the world community and poses the greatest geopolitical challenge in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”
The four men decided to increase American soldier presence on Okinawa to improve anti-ship capabilities in case of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or other hostile acts in the South or East China seas.
The U.S.-Japan security treaty now explicitly states that “attacks too, from, and inside space” can prompt mutual defense. That was previously outside the agreement. They also stated NASA would sign a cooperation agreement with Japan on Friday.
Japan’s defense ministry declared it would begin building on an uninhabited island where the two militaries will perform joint military exercises in 2027 before the meeting.
Blinken said the Wednesday deal deepens collaboration “across all sectors,” including space, cybersecurity, and emerging technologies.
He called the U.S.-Japan alliance “the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, protecting the security, liberty and prosperity of our people and others across the region.”
President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will address the relationship’s importance on Friday after Wednesday’s talks.
On Wednesday, Kishida, who was visiting friends in Europe and North America for a week, inked a defence deal with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to strengthen military ties in response to China.
Austin said Wednesday’s agreement reaffirms America’s “ironclad commitment to defend Japan with a full range of weapons, including nuclear” and that Article 5 of the mutual security pact applies to the Senkaku Islands. Beijing claims the islands outside Japanese waters.
In a Taiwan emergency, the island off Kagoshima’s southwestern coast on Kyushu’s southernmost main island will be a soldier deployment and munition supply base.
The southern island is closer to the U.S. air base of Iwakuni, home to an F-35B fleet, than the existing training site on Iwo Jima, where one of World War II’s deadliest battles took place.
The 12th Marine Regiment will become the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment, a smaller, faster-moving unit better able to battle an enemy and defend the U.S. and its allies on Okinawa.
Austin said the regiment would add “tremendous” capabilities to the region.
U.S. officials said the decision would neither expand Marines on the island or weapons capability.
Okinawa, the location of the worst land combat of World War II, is susceptible to military reinforcement. Okinawans want fewer U.S. troops in Japan.
A littoral regiment has 2,000 Marines, a combat team with an anti-ship missile battery, a logistics battalion, and an air defence battalion. It would replace 3,400 Marines and sailors on Okinawa.
Last year, Japan pledged to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP over five years. Wednesday’s agreements follow. That would make its defence budget the third-largest worldwide, reflecting increased concerns about North Korea and Chinese military action against Taiwan.
National security advisor Jake Sullivan noted that Biden’s engagement with friends is “paying significant benefits” for global security.
While there is an increasing fear of a Taiwan emergency, many in the region are concerned that defense buildups by China, the U.S., and its allies could heighten war risks.
According to a senior administration official, Biden will discuss Lt. Ridge Alkonis, a U.S. Navy sailor stationed in Japan convicted last year for careless driving that killed two Japanese people in May 2021, with Kishida on Friday.
The anonymous official said the administration is trying “to find a humanitarian resolution that’s compatible with the rule of law” in conversations with Japan.
RELATED CTN NEWS: