WASHINGTON – Japan and the United States agreed to tighten their security ties Tuesday, pledging to share more ballistic missile defense and other military data and to conclude a treaty to more comprehensively protect military information.
In a joint statement released after the “two-plus-two” security talks, the foreign and defense ministers from both countries said the bilateral alliance complements NATO in contributing to world peace and stability and Japan would engage in more extensive cooperation with NATO.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma and their U.S. counterparts, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, were scheduled to give a joint news conference later in the day.
The ministers reached a substantive agreement to conclude a general security of military information agreement to allow for the exchange of top secret information and to oblige both sides to guard the shared data.
The deal will cover operational intelligence, training information, and technical data related to joint research and development programs. It will be in addition to Japan’s current obligations to guard secrets about ships, aircraft, weapons and other equipment bought from the United States, Japanese officials said.
The agreement to sign a military information deal comes after a recent series of serious information leaks by members of the Self-Defense Forces. In the latest case, a Maritime Self-Defense Force petty officer got his unauthorized hands on top secret information on the Aegis system.
Increasing Japan’s cooperation with NATO will likely cause some controversy as it will mean expanding the activities of the SDF to a global level, giving a boost to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s campaign to end the government’s ban on “collective self-defense.”
The ministers also agreed the two nations would establish a task force on chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear defense so Japanese and U.S. forces can swiftly respond to these types of attacks.
On ballistic missile defenses, the statement says the two nations must clarify the roles and missions of each side to fulfill their commitment to constantly sharing operational and related information in real time.
Washington is believed to be pressing Japan to straighten out legal technicalities to enable it to exercise the right of collective defense so Japan’s missile defense shield could be used to intercept any North Korean ballistic missiles on their way to the United States. The government currently interprets the Constitution as banning participating in the defense of another country.
Japan said in the joint statement that it plans to speed up turning its destroyers into Aegis-equipped vessels as well as deploying ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability 3 interceptors.
In reviewing progress in the past year to implement the plan to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan, the ministers repeated their position that relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma by 2014 is key to the success of completing the forces realignment in Okinawa.
The realignment plan, drawn up in the last “two-plus-two” meeting last May, also includes consolidating U.S. facilities in Okinawa and moving 8,000 marines to Guam to alleviate the burden on the prefecture, where most of the U.S. military bases are concentrated.
However, while the statement said the two sides were positive in their evaluation of the progress, there was little significant change listed. On the Futenma relocation, the statement noted that a survey had just begun in the waters off Cape Henoko, in northern Okinawa Island, where the relocation airfield is to be built.