Japan and the United States said Friday they won’t revise their defense cooperation guidelines until the first half of next year, keeping in step with Tokyo’s efforts to legalize its use of collective self-defense.
The update, originally planned for the end of this year, will likely come in May or later, a Japanese official said, given that the Abe administration is expected to submit the security legislation to the Diet after nationwide local elections in April.
In a joint statement, Japan and the United States stressed the importance of ensuring that the revision will have substance, and strengthen the long-standing bilateral alliance to enhance deterrence. The statement was issued by the foreign affairs and defense chiefs of both nations.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters the statement represents the both governments’ determination to “strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance and bolster deterrence.”
Tokyo and Washington will “make positive contributions to peace and security in Japan and a broader area through the revision of the guidelines,” he said.
Defense Minister Akinori Eto said separately that there will be no additional delay and that he has instructed officials to accelerate efforts toward the target outlined in Friday’s statement.
The agreement to revise the defense cooperation guidelines, which define the role and mission of the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, was reached in October 2013.
The revision will reflect China’s growing assertiveness, North Korea’s missile and nuclear development programs, and threats in new domains like cyberspace.
In an interim report released in October, Japan and the U.S. said they aim to expand the scope of defense cooperation by removing existing geographical limits. The goal is to ensure a “seamless” response amid the changing security environment.
The report didn’t go into detail, but it did say the new guidelines will “appropriately” reflect Japan’s reinterpretation in July of the war-renouncing Constitution to sidestep the ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, or going to the defense of allies under armed attack.
Japan has long interpreted the Constitution as preventing it from exercising the right because it bans all use of force except for self-defense.