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U.S. and Japanese Leaders Chart Path to Strengthen 'Cornerstone' Alliance

U.S. and Japanese security officials have announced a series of initiatives that will strengthen the alliance between the two nations and help guarantee a free and open Indo-Pacific.


Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken hosted Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada at the Security Consultative Talks in Washington. 

Commonly called the 2+2 talks, U.S. officials reiterated the alliance with Japan is the "cornerstone" for security in the region. The talks further deepen an already close relationship, occurring as China becomes more assertive, Russia has invaded a sovereign nation and North Korea is developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. 

The talks are in advance of Friday's meeting between President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House.

Bust shot of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III with the American and Japanese flags in the background.
Security Meeting
Screenshot of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at State Department, Jan. 11, 2023.
Photo By: DOD screenshot
VIRIN: 230111-D-D0439-100S

Both Austin and Blinken expressed unqualified support for the decisions manifested in Japan's new national security strategy, national defense strategy and their decision to increase defense spending. "There is clear strategic alignment between the visions of President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida," Austin said. "It is a shared commitment to uphold the rules-based international order and to strengthen resilient partnerships around the globe. And the essential U.S.-Japan alliance is at the center of these efforts."

The security and defense leaders also made a historic alliance decision to optimize American force posture in Japan "by forward-stationing more versatile, mobile and resilient capabilities," Austin said. "These actions will bolster deterrence in the region and allow us to defend Japan and its people more effectively." 

Given the increasing complexity of the security environment in the Indo-Pacific, "we've decided that the 12th Artillery Regiment would remain in Japan and be reorganized into the12th Marine Littoral Regiment by 2025," Austin said. "We will equip this new formation with advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as anti-ship and transportation capabilities that are relevant to the current and future threat environments."

Chopper flies near the symbol of Japan – Mount Fuji.
Scenic Route
A U.S. Army Blackhawk flies near Mount Fuji, Japan, Jan. 18, 2022.
Photo By: Army Maj. Elias Chelala
VIRIN: 220118-A-RG339-058

This is a new type of Marine formation that is nimble, quick and suited for the vast distances of the region. There are approximately 50,000 American service members based in Japan today. The regiment will consist of between 1,800 and 2,000 Marines but will not increase the overall U.S. presence in the nation. DOD officials said that the unit will receive the new Navy/Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System, or NMESIS, as it is called. 

The officials discussed the temporary deployment of an American MQ-9 Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle unit to Kanoya Air Base in southern Japan to increase presence over the East China Sea.

"We also discussed updating our alliances, roles and missions so that Japan can more actively contribute to regional security alongside the United States and other like-minded partners," Austin said. "In our meeting today, we strongly endorsed Japan's decision to acquire a counterstrike capability, and we affirm that close coordination on employing this capability will strengthen the US-Japan alliance."

U.S. special operator shows Japanese pilots the capabilities of their aircraft.
Troop Talk
U.S. Air Force Capt. Nestor Soriano, 17th Special Operations Squadron AC-130J Ghostrider pilot, describes the unique capabilities of the AC-130J Ghostrider gunship to members of the Japan Self-Defense Force from Komaki Air Base, during a static display at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Nov. 18, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexis Sandoval
VIRIN: 221118-F-AP057-1186

The officials also determined that an attack "to, from or within space" could lead to the invocation of Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. This is part of the treaty being updated to reflect current trends: In 2019, the U.S. and Japan included cyber as a military domain that would be covered under Article V. This clarifies that space is also included in the treaty. Article V states: "Each Party recognizes an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes." 

Japan is also expanding its participation in efforts to maintain regional peace and stability and will work with U.S. officials to accelerate work on "evolving alliance roles and missions and to employ interoperable and advanced capabilities."  

Part of this is Japan will establish a permanent joint headquarters and will work with U.S. officials on the command-and-control arrangements with an emphasis on interoperability with U.S. forces.

Japanese chopper lands on deck of American ship.
Ready for Landing
A Japanese Self-Defense Force CH-47 helicopter landing aboard amphibious assault ship USS America, during operation Noble Fusion in the Philippine Sea, Feb 6, 2022. The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit regularly conducts training exercises with the Japanese Self-Defense Force to strengthen the capabilities of the U.S.-Japan Alliance.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Manuel Alvarado
VIRIN: 220206-M-YJ953-1005

The two militaries will also expand joint/shared use of facilities in Japan and increase exercises. This will include exercises in Japan's Southwest Islands.

The Indo-Pacific is a huge area comprising more than 50 percent of the globe. The two nations agreed to strengthen activities with allies and partners in the region including Australia, South Korea and India. Both nations also welcomed greater engagement in the Indo-Pacific by Euro-Atlantic partners.

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