WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hailed the government’s decision Tuesday to authorize a reinterpretation of war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, saying the move will pave the way for stronger bilateral ties between the two countries.
“I welcome the government of Japan’s new policy regarding collective self-defense, which will enable the Self-Defense Forces to engage in a wider range of operations and make the U.S.-Japan alliance even more effective,” Hagel said in a statement.
“The new policy also complements our ongoing efforts to modernize our alliance through the revision of our bilateral guidelines for defense cooperation,” the statement said.
Hagel added that he is looking forward to discussing Japan’s decision with Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera during the latter’s scheduled visit to Washington next week — hinting that the White House is keen to begin full-fledged talks on a proposed revision of the defense cooperation guidelines at the July 11 meeting.
The statement also said that the move is “an important step for Japan as it seeks to make a greater contribution to regional and global peace and security.”
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications for U.S. President Barack Obama, said in a separate comment that the country’s new defense posture is “part of the continued maturation of our alliance, and it opens the door to additional cooperation.”
He added that Obama has been supportive of the policy.
At the same time, Rhodes said the U.S. would like to see Japan and South Korea “continue dialogue to address not just collective self-defense, but also some of the issues around historical tensions” — urging Tokyo to boost efforts to win understanding from Seoul in light of its defense policy shift.