US, Japan announce ‘most significant’ upgrade to military alliance

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The United States and Japan plan to modernize their military command and control structures, which President Joe Biden said is the “most significant” upgrade to their alliance since its founding decades ago.

Speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a news conference Wednesday, Biden said the allies were taking important steps to ensure their militaries could “work together seamlessly and effectively.”

The US president added that the two countries had transformed their relationship into a “true global partnership” over the past three years, and that the alliance now served as a “beacon for their entire world.”

Kishida is visiting Washington for a historic summit aimed at strengthening the strong U.S.-Japan alliance, as countries grow increasingly concerned about what they see as threats from China.

In a joint statement released after the news conference, the leaders said Biden confirmed that the U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty includes nuclear capabilities and applies to the Senkaku, islands in the East China Sea administered by the Japan but claimed by China.

Referring to the Chinese Coast Guard’s recent aggressive activities toward the Philippines at Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed reef in the Spratly Islands, the leaders said they “strongly oppose any attempt to change the status quo through force or coercion.”

At the press conference, Kishida said the world was facing a “historic turning point” and that leaders had agreed to “continue to respond to challenges regarding China” and would “resolutely defend and strengthen” what he described as a free and open state. Peaceful.

Biden said the United States, Japan and Australia would create an “air, missile and defense architecture” for the first time. He added that the United States and Japan were planning to hold a trilateral military exercise with the United Kingdom.

Kurt Campbell, deputy secretary of state, said last week that the United States had been “conducting war games with the British to think a little bit about scenarios in the Indo-Pacific.”

The leaders said in their statement that their defense ministries would look for ways to develop and produce missiles together. They said countries would also increase intelligence sharing.

The Washington summit will include the first state dinner for a Japanese prime minister since Shinzo Abe in 2015. On Thursday, they will meet President Ferdinand Marcos Jr for the first trilateral summit with the Philippines.

The upgrade of command and control structures, first reported by the Financial Times, aims to strengthen cooperation and planning in the event of military emergencies, such as the war with China over Taiwan.

The summit comes as Japan has made a radical shift in its security policy, driven by China’s aggressive activity and Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, which has brought back the threat of conflict.

Sheila Smith, a Japan expert and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said a sea change had been made in the way Japan deals with global issues, saying it “now wants to make a difference.”

“Tokyo no longer watches from the sidelines as North Korea, China and now Russia attempt to change the status quo. Japanese leaders now recognize the danger of inaction. Their goal is to ensure that no one will neglect Japan’s strength,” Smith said.

Kishida, at the news conference, said he was continuing his efforts to try to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying a “meaningful relationship” between the Asian countries could be “extremely beneficial for peace and stability of the region.

Biden said he welcomed Kishida’s attempt to “engage in dialogue” with North Korea and that he had “confidence” in the Japanese prime minister.

Hopes for a diplomatic breakthrough faded recently after Kim Yo Jong, the North Korean leader’s sister, issued a statement last month rejecting “all contact and negotiations” with Tokyo.

U.S. officials had said Biden and Kishida would not discuss Nippon Steel’s proposed $14.9 billion acquisition of U.S. Steel, which the president has opposed. Unusually, Dave McCall, president of the United Steelworkers union, which opposes the deal, will be at the state dinner.

Asked about the deal, Kishida said only that he hoped it would “progress in directions that would be positive for both sides.” Biden said he would “maintain his commitment to American workers” but also support the U.S.-Japan alliance.

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