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Revised Strategic Guidelines Key to Stability, Japan’s Defense Minister Says

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The Japanese welcome the American rebalance to the Pacific, and Japan Self-Defense Force personnel look forward to working even more closely with U.S. personnel as a result of changes to the U.S.-Japan strategic guidelines, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said in an exclusive interview yesterday.

The defense guidelines provide a foundation for U.S.-Japan cooperation. The new changes will now allow Japanese Self-Defense Forces to coordinate with American forces worldwide, and they’ll also allow the two countries to cooperate in two new domains -- space and cyber. The guidelines also call for an alliance coordination mechanism that will improve planning and coordination between U.S. and Japanese forces.

Nakatani, speaking through an interpreter, said the guidelines “will serve to strengthen the deterrence capability in this region and I think this will contribute to the stability of this region as well.”

Guidelines Reflect Changing World

Nakatani said an important part of the revisions is expanding the range of cooperation between U.S. armed forces and the Japan Self-Defense Forces from a regional to a global basis. “We will cooperate in the Asia-Pacific region and the region beyond that,” he said. “The scope of our cooperation will also include new strategic areas such as space and cyberspace.”

The minister said the guidelines call on U.S. and Japanese officials to work closer together in peace and in emergency situations. “We will establish the coordination mechanism that will serve to better our forces coordination, and we will develop bilateral planning so we can cooperate and prepare from peacetime,” he said.

In the air, Nakatani sees more exercises between the Air Self-Defense Force, the U.S. Air Force and the Australian Air Force. He said there are already exercises in Guam and in Australia.

“Once we have enactment of new legislation in Japan, that will allow us to conduct logistics for your support to coalition members,” he said. “That will allow self-defense forces to contribute even more to peace and security of the world.”

Coordination at All Levels

For Japan to contribute and cooperate globally with U.S. forces, two things must be in place, the defense minister said. The first condition is legitimacy -- a United Nations resolution in support of international operations would be an example. “And the second is we need approval from the Japanese Diet,” he said.

The new guidelines call for an alliance coordination mechanism. Nakatani sees this happening at all levels, from cabinet to command levels. He said he expects that U.S. and Japanese officials, including himself and Defense Secretary Ash Carter, will consult regularly on planning and emergency situations.

The security environment around Japan is complicated, and both countries need to cope with new types of threats in new domains, the defense minister said. “I am strongly convinced the new guidelines will enhance deterrent and response capabilities of our forces, and I look forward to greater cooperation with U.S. forces around the world,” he said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

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