Japan and the United States agreed Monday that China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea will not be allowed to affect the operations of the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military.
In a meeting in Tokyo, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, affirmed continued coordination to deal with China’s action, the Foreign Ministry said.
Beijing in November announced rules requiring aircraft entering the zone, which covers the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China and Taiwan, to file flight plans in advance and follow the instructions of Chinese controllers or face “defensive emergency measures.”
Kishida and Locklear vowed to upgrade the Japan-U.S. alliance to ensure peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region as the security environment there becomes increasingly severe due to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, and other factors, the ministry said in a news release.
Locklear also held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who called for more robust ties between the SDF and U.S. forces.
Earlier in the day, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera urged Locklear to take more steps to help Okinawa Prefecture deal with the high concentration of U.S. military bases.
“Okinawa approved our request (for landfill to relocate a military base) in late December, and we’d like to ask the U.S. side for further steps to mitigate the impact on Okinawa,” Onodera told Locklear in a separate meeting, the start of which was open to journalists.
However, the city assembly of Nago, where the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan are planned to be relocated, adopted a document Monday demanding Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima retract his approval.
The plan to move the Futenma base further north on the island, first agreed to by Tokyo and Washington in 1996, has been fought tooth and nail in Okinawa.
Onodera and Locklear also discussed moving some training exercises involving the U.S. military’s MV-22 Osprey aircraft out of Okinawa, the Defense Ministry said.
The meeting came ahead of the countries’ first working-level talks on countering cyber-attacks, often attributed to China and North Korea.
“The stable use of cyberspace is an important bilateral security issue, and we want to cooperate with the United States,” Onodera said.
Amid the security threats posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear development, and an increasingly assertive China, Abe has promoted measures to bolster the capabilities of the SDF and strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Locklear was quoted by a government official as saying surveillance and warning activities are extremely important but safe operations should be ensured, as two Global Hawk surveillance drones are scheduled to be deployed at a base in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, from May to October.