Japan and the United States have agreed on joint technological research to counter hypersonic weapons, Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said on Wednesday, as the two countries strive to closely align their security strategies. in the face of China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
The deal was reached during talks between Hamada and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, their first face-to-face meeting since Hamada replaced Nobuo Kishi as defense minister in early August.
Japan and the United States see a growing need to bolster their alliance’s deterrence and other capabilities as the rules-based international order is challenged by countries like China and Russia.
Tensions have also risen over Taiwan following a trip to the self-governing democratic island in early August by Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, the third-highest ranking US official.
Criticizing China for launching ballistic missiles as part of its large-scale exercises near Taiwan after Pelosi’s visit, Hamada and Austin affirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and that unilateral change of the status quo by force in the region is unacceptable.
Japan and the United States will cooperate “closely and transparently” to prevent such attempts, Hamada said.
Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary. The island is seen as a potential military flashpoint that could lead to conflict between the United States and China.
A Taiwanese contingency is also of particular concern to Japan, a US security ally, given the proximity of its islands in the southwest, including the Senkakus, a group of islets in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.
Japan’s defense minister also told reporters after the meeting that Austin had shown “strong” support for Japan’s plan to fundamentally strengthen its defense capabilities through a planned update to its national security documents and to a substantial increase in its defense budget.
Defense capabilities Japan is currently considering include an ability to attack missile launch sites in an enemy’s territory, which the Asian country has so far chosen not to acquire under Japan’s pacifist constitution. after World War II.
In the budget request for the year beginning in April, the Japanese Ministry of Defense asked for funds to improve stand-off capabilities that enable attacks beyond an enemy’s firing range. Such development could be used to build what are known as enemy base strike capabilities, or what the Japanese government calls “counterattack capabilities.”
Japan plans to update its national security strategy by the end of this year, reflecting the region’s increasingly challenging security environment. This would be the first revision of the long-term policy guidance on security and diplomacy since it was adopted in 2013.
In March, the US administration of President Joe Biden unveiled the outline of its own national defense strategy, calling China “the most important strategic competitor” and pledging to prioritize the challenges posed by China by compared to those of Russia.
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