‘Historic turning point’: Japan-US defense cooperation goes global
NEW YORK — Japan and the U.S. have finalized new guidelines for defense cooperation that will see their security partnership expand beyond the Asia-Pacific region.
Meeting here Monday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani and American counterparts John Kerry and Ashton Carter approved the first changes in 18 years to each ally’s roles.
Their expansion of bilateral security cooperation seeks to “promote a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Asia-Pacific region and beyond.”
In a joint news conference, Kerry hailed the revision as a historic turning point. He reaffirmed that the U.S. sees the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands as covered by its obligations to protect Japan under Article 5 of their security treaty. This is an important point for Japan because China claims sovereignty over the islets, calling them the Diaoyu.
The new guidelines “show the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance,” Kishida told reporters.
The one-time enemies forged the alliance in 1951. Revisions nine years later committed the U.S. to defending Japan. During the Cold War, their defense cooperation guidelines focused on containing the Soviet Union. The previous revisions, in 1997, added North Korea and other new threats to the agenda. But the geographic and operational scope of Japanese Self-Defense Forces cooperation with the U.S. military remained narrow.
These constraints will loosen considerably under the new guidelines, which reflect a consensus in Japan’s ruling coalition on a proposed legal basis for a bigger SDF role.
Japanese forces’ mandate for providing logistical support for military operations — until now, limited to Japan and surrounding areas — has been redefined in terms of significance rather than geography. The SDF would thus be able to support U.S. forces in situations that could have a major impact on Japan’s peace and security, by refueling American warships far outside Japanese waters, for example.
The new guidelines also cover actions that would see Japan engage in collective self-defense — responding to an attack on an ally as one against itself. This marks a further step beyond the nation’s postwar security doctrine of using only minimal force in response to direct attacks. Examples of collective security listed in the guidelines include minesweeping in sea lanes and interdiction of shipping activities.