Revising defense guidelines new Japan, U.S. objective

A 15-year-old set of guidelines on how the U.S. and Japan security alliance is supposed to work is now in the process of getting a fresh look ahead of a makeover in light of China’s increasingly aggressive military activities in the region.

Senior Vice Defense Minister Akihisa Nagashima is leading the Japanese side in working with Washington on an “agreement to deepen Japan-U.S. strategic consultations.”  The two sides are oriented “in the same direction” on Tokyo’s proposal for revising the guidelines originally introduced in 1997 with a focus on the Korean peninsula.

Japan’s been meeting with Ashton Carter, Deputy Defense Secretary, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell.  Their agreement is coming at a time when Chinese surveillance and military vessels have been meandering in waters near Japanese territorial in southern Okinawa Prefecture.  The Chinese ships have been moving near the disputed Senkaku Islands, which Japan has nationalized but China claims as sovereign territory.

Washington says the two sides will be reviewing defense roles in the face of China’s military buildup and naval expansion in the Asia-Pacific region near Japan, particularly in the East China Sea.  “The Obama administration’s tendency to place emphasis on Asia will accelerate in its second term,” says Nagashima.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto says Japan has been proposing a new set of talks be undertaken this year, and not deferred. “The present guidelines were produced when the Korean peninsula was in a tense situation,” he says, recalling the crisis heightened by North Korea’s nuclear arms and missile development.” However, he noted, “the East Asian situation is not limited to the Korean peninsula and there is also the issue of China going to the Ocean.”

The former professor and diplomat says “We want to start the process of reviewing the state of the Japan-U.S. alliance once again by taking into consideration the qualitative changes in security risks.  After 15 years, there are risks concerning terrorism, outer space, cyberspace, maritime stability and territorial issues.”