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MSDF officer to take key post at Pentagon

Move aims to boost navies' operational integrity in face of regional threats

Kyodo

A Maritime Self-Defense Force officer has been assigned to begin working in a senior U.S. naval office at the Pentagon in August, Japanese and U.S. government sources said Tuesday.

The officer, whose rank will be lieutenant commander, will work in the strategic section of a Defense Department office assisting Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who as chief of naval operations is the highest ranking officer in the navy, the sources said.

It will be the first appointment of a Self-Defense Forces officer to the office of the CNO, which has already accepted ranking military officers from Britain and Australia.

The plan was announced after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet last week officially decided to reinterpret war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution to allow the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense, in other words enabling SDF to come to the aid of allies under attack.

The assignment is aimed at enhancing the operational integration of the U.S. Navy and the MSDF in the face of the growing maritime assertiveness of China, as well as nuclear and ballistic missile development by North Korea, the sources said.

The Air Self-Defense Force assigned one of its colonels to act as liaison officer to the Air Staff of the U.S. Air Force last August as part of a similar drive to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation and boost information sharing.

The SDF has said that sending officers to core sections of the U.S. Navy and Air Force will help build a closer alliance with the U.S. military as a possible contingency against instability in East Asia, or the occurrence of a major natural disaster.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are set to meet Friday to discuss issues including collective self-defense, the U.S. Defense Department said Tuesday.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, told reporters that Hagel “looks forward to discussing several issues important to the U.S.-Japan alliance, including Japan’s recent announcement on collective self-defense.”

Kirby said that, at their meeting at the Defense Department, Hagel and Onodera will talk about the ongoing review of bilateral defense cooperation guidelines, which detail the roles of the U.S. military and the SDF under the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

The Japanese and U.S. governments are seeking to revise the guidelines by the end of this year. The defense chiefs will also discuss how to strengthen cooperation with South Korea and Australia.