Japan and the United States on Tuesday launched a comprehensive mechanism for bilateral defense planning and the establishment of common standards and procedures to strengthen security ties.The decision, made in line with defense cooperation guidelines adopted last year, was officially declared at a meeting in Tokyo of U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi and Defense Agency chief Fumio Kyuma. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Foley and Japan’s ambassador to the U.S., Kunihiko Saito, also participated in the meeting.The bilateral comprehensive mechanism was established in order for the two sides to facilitate consultations and coordinate policies and operational functions under the defense guidelines revised last fall, government officials said.The mechanism will consist of the existing bilateral Subcommittee for Defense Cooperation and a new consultation group called the Bilateral Planning Committee under the direction of the Security Consultative Committee.The planning committee is to be made up solely of uniformed officials from the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. forces in Japan and the U.S. Pacific Command. The committee, headed by the bureau chief of the Joint Staff Office and the vice commander of the U.S. forces in Japan, is to conduct bilateral defense planning and mutual cooperation planning as well as establish common standards and procedures.The Japanese government has already established a bureau chief-level meeting of relevant ministries and agencies to work on and coordinate items related to the guidelines. But a coordination and liaison forum will be established, if necessary, by the Defense Agency and the Foreign Ministry to conduct bilateral coordination among the relevant government offices for effective work by the planning committee.The new guidelines, mostly eyeing emergency situations in areas surrounding Japan, would enable the Self-Defense Forces to offer U.S. forces unprecedentedly extensive support in such cases. The original guidelines adopted in 1978 focused on bilateral defense cooperation necessary in the event of an armed attack against Japan.

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