WASHINGTON – The top officer in the Self-Defense Forces, currently visiting Washington, disagreed with China’s portrayal of the controversial security bills that passed the Lower House on Thursday as expanding Japan’s military power.
Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of the SDF’s Joint Staff, told the audience at an event Thursday organized by a Washington think tank that the bills “are not meant to liberate Japan militarily but strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.”
The bills, if they pass the Upper House, will allow Japan to come to the aid of the United States or other friendly nations under armed attack, even if Japan itself is not.
During a meeting with a Japanese official in Beijing earlier Thursday, China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, expressed “serious concern” over the bills and said that “the international community cannot help but doubt whether Japan has abandoned its exclusively defense-oriented policy,” according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Regarding China’s rapid advance into nearby seas to lay territorial claims, Kawano said Japan has “big concerns” because the South China Sea, where China has conducted massive reclamation work, is “our important sea lane.”
The admiral said patrol activities by the SDF in the area are “an issue to be considered in the future.”
Speaking with Japanese media last month, Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said he would “welcome” SDF patrols in the South China Sea, which he said the United States sees as “international water, not territorial water of any country.”
Also Thursday, Kawano met with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and agreed to accelerate cooperation between the SDF and the U.S. military to strengthen the deterrence provided by the alliance, a joint statement said.
The admiral met with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday in the first such meeting between the chief of the SDF’s Joint Staff and a U.S. vice president.
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