Japan, US defense chiefs meet to align strategies during China’s rise

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Visiting Japanese Defense Secretary Yasukazu Hamada met with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin on Wednesday to seek a close alignment of security strategies between the two countries amid China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

“We will seek to fundamentally strengthen our defense capabilities” through a planned update to Japan’s national security documents, Hamada told the US defense secretary during their first face-to-face meeting since he replaced Nobuo Kishi as defense secretary in early August.

Austin criticized China for its “provocative” and “destabilizing” actions in the Taiwan Strait and in the waters around Japan, and affirmed the US’s “steadfast” commitment to the defense of Japan.

Japanese Defense Secretary Yasukazu Hamada (L) and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (2nd from R) hold talks at the Pentagon on Sept. 14, 2022. (TBEN)

The Pentagon talks came as Japan and the United States see an increasing need to bolster their alliance’s deterrent and other capabilities to respond to “any situation in the region,” as Japan’s defense ministry has said. said.

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With Russia’s war on Ukraine already raising concerns about challenges to the rules-based international order, China increased its military pressure on Taiwan in response to a recent trip to the self-ruled island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. of Deputies, the third Minister of Foreign Affairs. top US official.

Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a breakaway province that must be forcibly reunited with the mainland if necessary, remains a highly sensitive issue in US-China relations.

An unforeseen event in Taiwan is also of particular concern to Japan, a US security ally, given the proximity of its islands to the southwest — including the Senkakus, a group of islets in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo but being claimed by Beijing.

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Japan plans to update its national security strategy by the end of this year to reflect the increasingly challenging security environment in the region. It would be the first revision of the long-term security and diplomacy policy directive since its adoption in 2013.

During the meeting between the Japanese and US defense chiefs, Hamada is expected to convey Japan’s plan to bolster its so-called stand-off capabilities that allow attacks from beyond an enemy’s firing range.

Such long-range missiles could also be used to attack missile launch sites in enemy territory, a capability that Japan has so far not acquired under its post-World War II pacifist constitution.

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Hamada told Austin at the start of their meeting that Japan is putting all options on the table as it considers ways to bolster its defenses, including so-called enemy base attack capabilities, or what the Japanese government calls “counter-attack capabilities.”

Japan’s acquisition of counterstrike capabilities could change the long-standing division of roles under the bilateral alliance, in which the United States has served as an offensive “spear” and Japan the “shield” to fend off attacks, security experts said. Critics fear the move could spark an arms race in the region.

In March, the US administration of President Joe Biden unveiled an outline of its own national defense strategy, calling China its “main strategic competitor” and pledging to prioritize China’s challenges over Russia’s.