• Kyodo

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A new senior U.S. Defense Department official expressed hope Tuesday that Japan will further contribute to the bilateral security alliance by exercising its right to collective defense.

“If Japan is able to do more, I think we would, you know, be happy with that,” Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told a news conference.

“That’s for the Japanese to decide. It may well be that the new administration is tackling this question in a way that had not been tackled before,” said Rodman, who met the press for the first time since assuming his post late last month.

Japan’s current position is that while it has the right to collective defense under international law, this would violate Article 9 of the Constitution, which renounces the use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

Collective defense is a provision guaranteed under the U.N. Charter that allows one country to help defend another from an armed attack even though the first country is not under attack.

Rodman voiced objections to proposed revisions of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement on the management of U.S. bases in Japan.

“Revision is not really in the cards,” he said. “I don’t think either side is really interested in significant changes.”

Several high-profile crime incidents involving U.S. military personnel have prompted public calls in Japan that enforcement of the agreement be beefed up.

Under SOFA, the U.S. military is not required to turn over to Japanese authorities service members suspected of crimes in Japan before they are indicted.

But following the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawa girl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995, Washington agreed to give “sympathetic consideration” to the preindictment transfer of suspects in serious crimes such as murder and rape.

An alleged rape earlier this year, in which a U.S. serviceman was handed over to Japanese police and arrested before being charged, followed strong calls from the public for improved enforcement of SOFA. The suspect has denied the allegations, claiming he had consensual sex with the woman in question.

Rodman expressed concerns about China’s moves to bolster its intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal and denied allegations that Washington’s plans to deploy missile defense shields will accelerate an Asian arms race.

“There is no indication that if we refrain from missile defense they would, you know, not do what they are already clearly doing in modernizing their ICBM force,” he said.

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