US and Japan talk about updating alliance as concerns about China mount

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The United States is holding talks on Wednesday about ways to “modernize” its alliance with Japan, which plans to step up its defenses in the face of a rising China and tensions over Taiwan and North Korea.

Japan’s foreign and defense ministers were in Washington for talks with their counterparts two days ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is touring the Group of Seven Nations to depose Japan’s leadership of the elite club of industrial democracies this year. kick.

The ministers “are set to set out a vision of how a modernized alliance between the United States and Japan is positioned to triumph in this new era of strategic competition,” a senior US official said, alluding to China’s rise.

The talks are expected to finalize a United States plan to deploy a so-called Marine Littoral Regiment, a more agile unit capable of bolstering defenses by both sea and air, to Okinawa, the southern Japanese island strategically close to Taiwan is located, to send.

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Okinawa, under US control until 1972, is home to more than half of Japan’s 50,000 US troops, whose leaders have spoken for decades about easing the burden of a local population often outraged by the bases.

But Japan’s calculus has shifted with China’s growing assertiveness under President Xi Jinping. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will join the talks on Wednesday, has previously warned that China has pushed back its timeline to consider taking Taiwan by force.

Last month, Japan revised its defense policy when it warned that China, with which it has a fraught history, posed the “biggest security challenge ever” to its security.

The Kishida government said Japan would increase defense spending to two percent of GDP by 2027, in line with a separate target set by NATO countries, whose security concerns have also increased as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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The moves, which polls say are largely supported by the public, mark the latest shift by Japan, which has officially been pacifist since its defeat in World War II, when the US occupiers constitutionally stripped the country of its right to go to war.

– US assists ‘counter-attack’ capability –

Japan will also try to build a “counter-attack capability” – able to hit launch sites that threaten the country.

Tokyo has been alarmed over the past year by North Korea, which has tested a slew of ballistic missiles, including some that have flown over Japan.

North Korea’s missiles and China’s “growing warmongering behavior” show “that you have to have a way to deter a potential adversary,” the US official said on condition of anonymity.

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“The Japanese don’t want to go down the nuclear weapons route and I think that’s something we wouldn’t support either, but having the ability to hit back is deterrence (that is) giving people pause,” he said.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies recently released wargame findings to chart a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and found that Beijing would attack Japanese bases and inflict heavy casualties, though China would ultimately fail to invade Taiwan. take.

China claims Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, as part of its territory and last year conducted exercises that were seen as a test run for an invasion after a defiant visit to Taipei by Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

Kishida signed another major agreement in London on Wednesday allowing British troops to be deployed to Japan for training and other operations.

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