United States and Ja­pan boost co­op­er­a­tion in de­fense talks


New guide­lines gov­ern­ing the Ja­pan-U.S. de­fense al­liance will al­low the two mil­i­taries to “co­op­er­ate seam­lessly,” Amer­i­can De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter said Wed­nes­day in Tokyo fol­low­ing a meet­ing with his Ja­panese coun­ter­part.

On the sec­ond day of a three­day visit to Ja­pan, Carter met Gen. Nakatani to thrash out rules on how their armed forces can work to­gether in the com­ing years.

The move comes as Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe is push­ing for a higher pro­file re- gional role for Ja­pan at a time of grow­ing dis­quiet in Asia over the rise of a newly as­sertive China, a push that is wel­comed by Wash­ing­ton.

The fresh guid­ance will “de­tail how our gov­ern­ments will con­tinue to work to­gether around the world and in new do­mains, such as space and cy­berspace, to en­sure Ja­pan’s peace and se­cu­rity,” Carter told a joint press con­fer­ence with Nakatani.

A new code will be fi­nal­ized in Wash­ing­ton at the end of April, when Abe vis­its the U.S., ac­com­pa­nied by Nakatani and For­eign Min­is­ter Fu­mio Kishida.

The rules, which were last re­vised in 1997, will take into ac­count a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ja­pan’s con­sti­tu­tion by the Abe gov­ern­ment last year, which al­lows for so-called col­lec­tive de­fense.

This change “has in­formed” the new frame­work, a se­nior U.S. of­fi­cial trav­el­ing with Carter said.

Un­der the new in­ter­pre­ta­tion, Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary will be per­mit­ted — in cer­tain cir­cum­stances — to come to the aid of an ally un­der attack.

Pre­vi­ously, Ja­panese gov­ern­ments have held that sol­diers, sailors and air­men can only fight back if di­rectly at­tacked, or in de­fense

of Ja­panese na­tion­als or prop­erty.

Com­mit­ment to Paci­fism

Abe has faced con­sid­er­able do­mes­tic op­po­si­tion to his bid to weaken Ja­pan’s con­sti­tu­tional com­mit­ment to paci­fism, a stric­ture im­posed by the U.S. af­ter World War II but since en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­braced by the Ja­panese public.

He gave up an orig­i­nal plan to amend ar­ti­cles re­strict­ing the coun­try’s well-armed and well­trained mil­i­tary to a nar­rowly de­fined de­fen­sive role, and set­tled for rein­ter­pret­ing the rules in­stead.

The United States has around 47,000 ser­vice per­son­nel sta­tioned in Ja­pan, a le­gacy of the U.S. oc­cu­pa­tion of its for­mer ad­ver­sary at the end of World War II.

Their pres­ence — a sig­nif­i­cant con­tribut­ing fac­tor in Ja­pan’s abil­ity to ef­fec­tively out­source its de­fense over the last seven decades — is wel­comed by most Ja­panese, but is con­tentious in the south­ern is­land chain of Ok­i­nawa, home to more than half the U.S. con­tin­gent.

Is­lan­ders com­plain­ing of an un­equal bur­den have fo­cused their anger on the long-planned move of the Futenma Air Base from a crowded ur­ban area to the ru­ral coastal spot of Henoko.

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