US, Japan agree to strengthen security ties amid China concerns | Military News

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The United States and Japan have announced plans to strengthen security cooperation in the face of shared concerns about China.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday in Washington, DC following talks between the US and Japanese foreign and defense ministers, the two countries said China posed an “unprecedented” threat to international order and pledged they set their alliance “in a new era. strategic competition.”

“China’s foreign policy seeks to reshape the international order to its advantage and to use China’s political, economic, military and technological power to that end,” said the statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary the Defense Lloyd Austin and their Japanese counterparts. , Yoshimasa Hayashi and Yasukazu Hamada.

“This behavior is of great concern to the alliance and the entire international community, and represents the greatest strategic challenge in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”

The four men agreed to alter the US troop presence on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa in part to bolster anti-shipping capabilities needed in the event of a Chinese incursion into Taiwan or other hostile actions in China’s waters. South or East.

They also added a formal reference to outer space in the long-standing US-Japan security treaty, making clear that “attacks to, from and into outer space” could override its defense provisions. to encourage consensus. That was previously outside the scope of the agreement.

In addition, the US space agency NASA plans to sign a cooperation agreement with Japan on Friday, they said.

Blinken said the agreement reflects the two countries’ effort to deepen cooperation “across all areas”, including space, cybersecurity and emerging technologies.

He said the US-Japan alliance “has been a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, ensuring the security, freedom and prosperity of our people and our people across the region”.

After the talks on Wednesday there will be a meeting on Friday between the President of the USA Joe Biden and the Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida where they will emphasize the importance of the relationship.

Kishida, on a week-long trip to visit friends in Europe and North America, signed a defense agreement with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday that will strengthen military ties between the two countries, also in response to China.

Austin noted that the agreement affirms “the ironclad commitment of the US to defend Japan with a full range of capabilities, including nuclear” and affirms that Article 5 of the mutual security treaty relating to the Senkaku Islands.

The disputed islands outside Japanese territorial waters are also claimed by Beijing, which it calls the Diaoyu Islands.

The practice of Okinawa

The changes in the US deployment on Okinawa will transform the 12th Marine Regiment into a smaller, faster mobile unit – the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment, which will be designed to be better equipped to fight any enemy and to protect the US and its allies in the country. area

Austin said the regiment will bring “tremendous” capabilities to the region as a “more lethal, more agile, more capable” military unit.

US officials said the decision will not increase the number of marines on the island and will not come with any major change in military capability. Consolidating military or troop capacity is a sensitive issue for Okinawa, the site of one of the bloodiest land battles at the end of World War II. The island hosts more than half of the US troops stationed in Japan, and Okinawans want that number reduced.

A littoral regiment consists of about 2,000 marines and includes a combat team with an anti-ship missile battery, a logistics battalion and an air defense battalion. The current marine regiment on Okinawa that it would replace includes approximately 3,400 sailors and sailors.

Wednesday’s agreements follow Japan’s announcement last year that it will increase its defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) over five years. That would make its defense budget the third largest in the world – a major shift in Tokyo’s priorities that reflects growing concerns about North Korea and possible Chinese military action. the face of Taiwan.

When asked about the Japanese reforms, Blinken said: “It’s very simple, we warmly welcome the new strategies especially because there is … an amazing consensus between our strategy and strategies and Japan.

“We commend the commitment to increased investment, to enhanced roles, missions and capabilities… to closer cooperation not only between the United States and Japan but also with other allies and partners,” he said. e. “We already have a strong foundation that is only going to grow. “

Austin noted ramped-up Chinese military activity near the Taiwan Strait, but said he highly doubted they were indicative of plans for an impending invasion of the island by Beijing.

China claims Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, as its territory and last year carried out exercises seen as a test run for an invasion after a controversial visit to Taipei by then-speaker Nancy Pelosi at the US House of Representatives.

“I won’t second-guess Mr. Xi but what I will tell you is that what we are seeing recently is provocative behavior from the Chinese forces,” Austin said, referring to President China Xi Jinping.

“We think they’re trying to establish a new normal but whether that means an attack is coming, you know, I highly doubt it,” he said.

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