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Japan, U.S. must deepen cooperation to prevent alliance from coming apart

The Yomiuri ShimbunIf the Japan-U.S. alliance comes apart, peace and stability cannot be maintained in Asia. The two countries need to ramp up deterrence by increasing their defense cooperation.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has visited Japan and conferred with officials including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya. With China’s continued aggressive maritime advancement in mind, Esper and the Japanese leaders have agreed on a policy to realize a “free and open Indo-Pacific” as well as aim for the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

The post of U.S. defense secretary had been left vacant since Jim Mattis resigned at the end of last year. The unusual situation was resolved last month as Esper, a former secretary of the U.S. Army, was confirmed for the post. This opportunity should be used to deepen the bilateral alliance.

The task for the moment is how to deal with a recent series of short-range ballistic missiles fired by North Korea. After meeting with Esper, Iwaya said that the two of them “agreed to work toward achieving complete abolition of the North’s missiles of any range.”

U.S. President Donald Trump does not seem to regard the launching of short-range missiles as problematic, but such a provocation that runs counter to sanctions resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council cannot be permitted.

A view has emerged that the series of short-range missiles launched recently are of a new model designed to dodge missile defenses through their unorthodox trajectories. It is essential that the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military augment their warning and surveillance activities.

Emphasize 2-way ties

Iwaya and Esper have confirmed the importance of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) under which Japan and South Korea share information on the North’s nuclear and missile programs. In protest against Tokyo’s decision to eliminate South Korea from a list of countries entitled to favorable treatment in export procedures, Seoul has hinted at scrapping the GSOMIA.

If the security cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea collapses, it will only benefit China and North Korea.

Esper asked Iwaya to cooperate in a U.S.-led plan to ensure safety in the Strait of Hormuz.

The government must study measures to protect Japanese tankers while scrutinizing the content of the U.S.-led plan and taking into account Japan’s friendly relationship with Iran and responses from other countries.

The important thing in ramping up the Japan-U.S. alliance is to steadily expand working-level cooperation.

Trump expressed dissatisfaction with the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, arguing that his country is unilaterally responsible for defending Japan. As long as the U.S. administration sticks to inward thinking, it will continue to assert that Washington is unilaterally sustaining the alliance.

Based on the bilateral security treaty, Japan hosts U.S. military bases. Japan is the stronghold for U.S forces in the Asia-Pacific region, thus bringing benefits to the United States.

The SDF protects U.S. military ships and other vessels, activities that have been made possible under security-related laws. Refueling for U.S. forces has come to be conducted based on a new agreement. Tokyo should explain the fact that Japan-U.S. joint cooperation has developed even in peacetime.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 8, 2019)Speech



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