Japan, US plan defense, eyeing China

Japan, US plan defense, eyeing China
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida attend a meeting with the media at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on April 27, 2015 in New York. The US commitment to the defense of Japan is "ironclad," top US diplomat John Kerry vowed Monday as the two allies broadened their military cooperation revising their rules for the first time since 1997

NEW YORK - New defence co-operation guidelines between Japan and the United States include many practical measures for strengthening the deterrent power of the two countries' concerted actions, eyeing the military build-up of China, which has become a much larger presence since 1997, when the previous guidelines were decided.

The new guidelines were agreed upon at a so-called two-plus-two meeting of the two countries' foreign and defence ministers held Monday in New York.

Expansion of the range of cooperative activities on the part of the Self-Defence Forces is also reflected in the new guidelines.

The two-plus-two meeting's joint statement said the the new guidelines "manifest a strategic vision for a more robust Alliance and greater shared responsibility by modernizing the Alliance and enhancing its deterrence and response capabilities in all phases, from peacetime to contingencies." With the phrase, the four ministers from the two nations emphasised the significance of the new guidelines.

The defence co-operation guidelines' official stance is that the two countries do not envision specific countries or contingencies.

However, when the first defence co-operation guidelines were compiled in 1978, the guidelines envisioned an invasion of Japan by the Soviet Union.

When the guidelines were revised in 1997, contingencies on the Korean Peninsula, due to North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, were envisioned.

It is certain that the latest guidelines envision China, which has been expanding its high-handed advances in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

Notably, the new guidelines stipulate more detailed points about peacetime co-operation than the previous version, so that Japan-US actions will be seamless.

The former versions of the guidelines mentioned such points only briefly.

The points include activities of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); asset protection and enhanced operational co-operation with a view to improving effectiveness.

When the Taiwan Strait Crisis occurred in spring 1996, US forces dispatched two aircraft carriers to nearby sea areas to deter provocative actions by China.

If tensions rise between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, it is likely that US forces will implement similar forward deployments. But China has developed ballistic and cruise missiles to obstruct dispatches of aircraft carriers.

The new guidelines enable the Maritime Self-Defence Force's fleet to conduct ISR activities, training or exercises to prevent an escalation of incidents in an integrated manner, while protecting US aircraft carriers.

To coordinate such integrated operations, the new guidelines will make it possible for the two countries to use the Alliance Coordination Mechanism in all phase from peacetime to contingencies. Under the guidelines up to now, the mechanism would begin working only after a contingency has occurred.

For that purpose, both Japan and the United States will station staff in charge of the mechanism in each other's countries.

In addition, as responses to contingencies in Japan, the new guidelines stipulate defence of Japanese remote islands.

If the Senkaku Islands or the Nansei Islands are occupied by China, US forces will "support and supplement" the SDF's operations to take back the occupied islands.

The enhanced Japan-US defence co-operation can be implemented not only in the East China Sea, but also in the South China Sea.

In addition to Japan-US joint ISR activities in peacetime, the new guidelines assume that if China has a military conflict with the Philippines or the United States in the South China Sea, the SDF will be able to provide logistic support by virtue of regarding the incident as a situation with significant effects on Japan's peace and safety.

In situations endangering Japan's existence, in which Japan will be allowed to exercise its right of collective self-defence in a limited range, the new guidelines stipulate that the SDF will be able to do mine-sweeping, boarding inspections and protection of ships.

Global expectations

WASHINGTON - In work to revise the Japan-US defence co-operation guidelines, US government officials attached importance to expanding Japan's co-operation on a global scale.

Strong expectations on the part of the United States are reflected in a description that asserts: "Japan and the United States will take a leading role ... to provide a foundation for peace, security, stability, and economic prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond."

This will upgrade Japan's role in the alliance remarkably and provide a mechanism in which Japan will support the US military on a broad scale, said Evan Medeiros, senior director for Asian Affairs at the US National Security Council, who emphasizes the significance of the statement.

The US side, including a US Defence Department senior official, especially cited the removal of geographical restrictions in Japan-US co-operation as the biggest gain of the new guidelines.

Under recent circumstances in which the United States cannot put ample spending into national defence as it once did, the current US administration's "rebalance" policy - which focuses on the Asia-Pacific region - is a measure to ask its allies to share certain roles in security. Japan is the ally expected to take up the largest share of the burden.

Several US officials recently asked the Self-Defence Forces to be involved in a patrol activity in the South China Sea. That is also an outcome of the US expectations.

The United States also thinks that if Japan - as a major Asian state with which it shares basic values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law - comes into accord with the United States in the defence field as well, that this will grant universality to "American justice."

While the guidelines reflect the perspective of the US Defence Department, in which officials regard China as "the toughest imaginary enemy" in the long term, US officials strove not to make the new guidelines portray an overtly anti-China mode.

If friction between the Japan-US alliance and China is emphasised too much, it may possibly heighten the tension in the region, generating many disadvantages for the United States as it needs co-operation from China for various tasks.

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