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U.S., Japan to update defense rules in 2014

First 'two-plus-two' parley in Tokyo focuses on rising threats in Asia

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

The foreign affairs and defense chiefs of Japan and the United States agreed Thursday to revise bilateral defense cooperation guidelines by the end of 2014 so the joint security alliance reflects rising threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

In the “two-plus-two” meeting, in which the participants for the first time in Tokyo involved all the heads of their respective ministries, the four agreed that the guidelines, last revised in 1997 to outline how the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military should cooperate, must be changed to take into account the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear threats, as well as cyber-attacks and terrorism.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and their American counterparts, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, also confirmed that steps would be taken to reduce the concentration of U.S. military bases in Okinawa.

The steps will include the start of a U.S. Marine transfer from Okinawa to Guam in the first half of the 2020s, and a reduction in MV-22 training flights in Okinawa by making more use of the mainland. The two dozen MV-22 Ospreys are all based in Okinawa.

“We are coming together now to modernize our deep cooperation, through both our military alliance and our diplomatic partnership, and that is so we can better prevent and respond to the ever-changing threats of the 21st century,” Kerry said, stressing that the bilateral relationship has never been stronger or better than it is today.

In a joint statement issued after the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee ended the two-plus-two parley, they also pledged to beef up cooperation in ballistic missile defense, cybersecurity and the safe use of outer space.

They also called on China “to adhere to international norms of behavior as well as to improve openness and transparency in its military modernization.”

To enhance military capabilities in Japan, the U.S. will deploy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft from December, in the first such stationing of the aircraft outside U.S. territory, according to the statement. The U.S. will also deploy Global Hawk drones from next spring, the paper said.

They also said they will allow by the end of November for Japanese fishing boats to enter part of the U.S. military zone off east Okinawa known as the “Hotel/Hotel training area.”

As for the long-stalled replacement of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma with a new airstrip to be built in less-crowded Henoko farther north on Okinawa Island, they stressed that the only way to get it done was to proceed with the long-held, but locally contentious, plan. Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima reportedly will decide whether to allow offshore land-fill work, for the new airstrip’s runways, to begin in Henoko sometime after December.

During the approximately 2½-hour meeting, the Japanese ministers told their counterparts about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to beef up national security in light of growing territorial tensions with China in the East China Sea and North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats.

Ongoing discussions about reinterpreting the pacifist Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense, about establishing an entity similar to the U.S. National Security Council, and about revising Japan’s own defense guidelines were also raised at the meeting, the ministers said.

The guidelines for defense cooperation between the SDF and the U.S. military were originally drawn up during the Cold War in 1978 under the premise that Japan could face a Soviet attack.

The guidelines were revised in 1997 to include bilateral cooperation during emergencies around Japan, especially those involving the Korean Peninsula.

  • Peter C. Huang

    It is unfair that Japan does not need to buy weapons from the USA but has weapons to protect herself, while Taiwan needs buy a large amount of weapons from the USA to protect herself.