The foreign and defense ministers of Japan and the United States held a meeting in Washington on June 21 and issued a joint statement covering a wide range of security-related issues. They agreed that the Japan-U.S. alliance is indispensable for the security of the two countries as well as for the peace, stability and economic prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.
Remarkably, the joint statement pays close attention to China’s increased military activities, without naming the country, including its naval activities in the East and South China seas. It points out China’s threats to outer space, cyberspace and the high seas. It particularly mentions China’s anti-access and area denial capabilities. It calls for deterring provocation by North Korea. It also mentions the establishment of a bilateral extended deterrence dialogue to be conducted on a regular basis.
It is important for Japan to deepen cooperation with the U.S. in dealing with the changing security environment in the region. But its cooperation should strictly follow constitutional principles.
The Japanese and U.S. governments must pay careful attention to one factor that could negatively impact relations — that is the planned transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa Island, to Henoko in the northern part of the island. In the joint statement, Japan and the U.S. have agreed to carry out the transfer at the earliest possible date after 2014.
But both governments should realize that given the Okinawan people’s vehement opposition to the transfer within Okinawa Prefecture, it is almost impossible to push the Henoko plan. The more they stick to the plan, the deeper Okinawan people’s resentment will become. Such resentment could undermine ties. Japan and the U.S. should seriously consider moving the Futenma functions outside Okinawa.
The ministers endorse the transfer of the SM-3 Block IIA anti-missile missile, which Japan and the U.S. jointly developed, to other countries.
It is extremely regrettable that without Diet deliberation, the government made the decision that could undermine Japan’s traditional ban on the export of weapons. At the very least, strict rules to govern the missile transfer should be worked out.
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