Japan and the United States on Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the current Japan-U.S. security treaty. Under the treaty the U.S. and Japan are to act jointly in defending against an attack on Japanese territory or on U.S. bases in Japan.

The signing of the treaty in 1960 met strong opposition from those who feared it would increase the possibility of Japan’s involvement in war. Despite initial opposition and changes in the international environment since then, notably including the end of the Cold War, the security treaty has survived. In 1996, Japan and the U.S. declared that the role of the security setup had expanded to securing peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

In separate statements, U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States’ “commitment to Japan is unshakable,” and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama characterized the presence of U.S. forces in Japan as a “public good” that creates a “strong sense of security for the countries in the (Asia-Pacific) region.”

Although the military threat from the Soviet Union is over, the security environment surrounding Japan remains difficult. Japan and the U.S. must work to enhance cooperative relations with China, which is engaged in a massive military buildup. North Korea has obtained nuclear weapons and possesses many missiles. It is important that as Japan and the U.S. strive to maintain and improve their deterrent capabilities, both nations refrain from behavior that could create the perception that a rift exists between them.

In making its security efforts, Japan must stick to its war-renouncing Constitution — under which Japan refrains from using military force to solve international disputes and from sending troops overseas for combat — and to its defense-only principle. Both commitments have contributed to strengthening neighboring countries’ trust in Japan.

Japan and the U.S. also should use the security treaty’s anniversary as an opportunity to strengthen their cooperation on such matters as climate change, nuclear disarmament, energy and the fight against poverty and infectious diseases.

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