The Japanese and U.S. governments established on Tuesday a new entity to unify the security and diplomacy operations of the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, both in peacetime and in response to emergency situations.
The decision to set up the group was made by the Subcommittee for Defense Cooperation, a panel composed of director general-level diplomatic and defense officials from both countries, based on the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines revised in April.
The subcommittee also agreed to devise a joint plan prescribing defense force responses to specific emergency situations.
But details of the joint plan — which includes classified information — will be kept from the public, as will the content of deliberations by the new coordination group, adding to concerns about a lack of transparency in the countries’ cooperation negotiations.
The joint plan is aimed at making use of Japan’s recently passed security legislation that provides for the expansion of SDF activities.
The alliance coordination group is designed to provide for the sharing of information in any eventuality, allowing for rapid decision-making and thus strengthening the countries’ defense alliance.
According to a Japanese source, the coordination group, for example, would likely respond should North Korea test-fire a ballistic missile in peacetime.
The new group will involve officials from Japan’s National Security Council, the Foreign and Defense ministries and the SDF.
The U.S. part of the group will include officials from the National Security Council, State Department, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Japan.
Tuesday’s agreement also provides for the establishment of two coordination centers under the new group’s command — one for communications between the Defense Ministry’s Joint Staff Office and U.S. Pacific Command, and another for information sharing between the SDF and U.S. military.
While specific matters that fall under the new group’s purview have not been fixed, the joint plan sets out particular emergency situations and the respective operational responses by the countries’ defense forces.
The plan is likely to specify the forces involved in each response, necessary personnel numbers, and ports and airports from which they will be deployed.
According to Defense Ministry sources, the joint plan has until now been stuck at the consideration phase, but SDF and U.S. military officials will now begin formulating the plan according to the instructions of government ministers.