The U.S. said it would deploy new military hardware in Japan and reiterated its backing for Japanese control of islands disputed with China as the allies prepare for shifting security threats in the region.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met their Japanese counterparts today in Tokyo and officially agreed to revise the guidelines for defense cooperation between the two nations for the first time since 1997. They formalized a deal to move some U.S. troops from Okinawa to Guam and plan to cooperate on cyber defense.
The U.S.-Japan alliance is the “cornerstone of peace and prosperity across the Asia-Pacific,” Kerry told reporters after the meeting. “Our relationship has never been stronger or better than it is today. We are continuing to adapt, however, to confront the different challenges of the 21st century,” he added, saying they would set a strategic road map for the next 15 to 20 years.
Kerry and Hagel met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera today, reconfirming the U.S. commitment “to the security of Japan through the full range of of U.S. military capabilities, including nuclear and conventional,” according to a joint statement from the two governments.
The two countries pledged to create “a more robust alliance” as China boosts military spending and expands its naval reach, while North Korea is increasing the range of its ballistic missiles and threatening neighbors with nuclear attacks. Almost 70 years after the U.S. imposed a pacifist constitution on Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is seeking to reinterpret the document to allow it to defend allies.
“I explained the Abe cabinet’s security policy based on active pacifism and this was welcomed by my U.S. counterparts,” Kishida told reporters today.
China has denounced the expansion of the alliance and what it says is a new Japanese militarism. Tensions between the two nations have remained high since Japan purchased three disputed islands in the East China Sea in September 2012. Since then Chinese patrol boats have regularly plied the waters near the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China to challenge Japan’s claims of sovereignty.
“The United States has made it clear that, while we don’t take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku islands, we do recognize Japan’s administration of those islands,” Kerry said. “We urge the parties not to engage in any unilateral action,” he added. Kishida thanked him for his support.
Kerry said China had a role in pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. U.S. officials “acknowledge there will be differences” in the relationship “but we seek to to find the things we can cooperate on,” such as a shared interest in a denuclearized North Korea.
A “rising China is welcome as long as” it adheres to international standards and values and works in constructive ways, Kerry said. He added that the U.S. was prepared to engage with North Korea on the condition it is prepared to denuclearize.
The U.S. also used the meeting to announce the location of a second missile-defense radar to be deployed in Japan and the two countries discussed existing plans to shift 5,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam as the U.S. seeks to reduce the impact of its forces on local communities. Under the plan, Japan will pay up to $3.1 billion of the estimated $8.6 billion total cost of the relocation, the two governments said in a statement.
The U.S. said in the statement it will rotate Global Hawk unmanned aircraft through Japan from 2014 and will deploy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft to Japan for the first time from December this year.
As part of a deeper alliance, the countries pledged to expand cooperation in fighting global terrorism and piracy and work together to provide humanitarian aid. Japan and the U.S. plan to work with private industry to counter cybersecurity threats and will seek to leverage space and satellite technology to enhance maritime security, the countries said in the joint statement.
Kerry and Hagel began their day with a visit to Chidorigafuchi, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. officials ever to visit the secular cemetery that honors Japanese war dead, including those who fought against the U.S. in World War II. Visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, which honors war dead including some convicted of war crimes, have fueled tensions with China and South Korea, both of which suffered under Japanese occupation.
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