Japan and the United States stepped-up security cooperation on Wednesday, with a focus on addressing concerns over China, as part of talks ahead of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Washington.
“We agree that the PRC is the greatest shared strategic challenge that we and our allies and partners face,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a joint news conference, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
The briefing followed a meeting between US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada in Washington.
Defence treaty extended to space
A joint statement issued after the meeting said the two countries “provided a vision of a modernised Alliance postured to prevail in a new era of strategic competition.”
At the briefing, Austin announced plans to introduce a Marine Littoral Regiment in Japan, which would bring significant capabilities, including anti-ship missiles.
Blinken said that two sides also agreed to extend the terms of their common defence treaty to cover space.
According to a Guardian report, the defence chiefs agreed that attacks “to, from, and within” space will trigger the security pact between the two countries, and an attack on one will qualify as an attack on both allies.
Austin will meet his Japanese counterpart again on Thursday at the Pentagon, ahead of a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday.
Chip curbs on agenda
Biden and Kishida are likely to discuss control of semiconductor exports to their strategic rival China, a senior administration official told Reuters.
Washington is working closely with Japan on the issue and believes they share a similar vision even if their legal structures are different, the official said. The more countries and significant players back the export controls, the more effective they would be, the official added.
“There will be discussion about technology and about the importance of both preserving our own advantages and making sure that we are applying appropriate controls and safeguards to do that,” the official said.
Kishida has said he supports Biden’s attempt to limit China’s access to advanced semiconductors with export restrictions. However, he has not yet agreed to match sweeping curbs on exports of chip-manufacturing equipment that the US administration imposed in October.
Meanwhile, Japanese economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a Washington event last week that it was “absolutely imperative” for Japan to cooperate with the US on export controls.
“We will implement strict export controls grounded in international cooperation while engaging closely in exchanges of views with the United States and other relevant countries,” Nishimura said, according to a Japan Times report.
The statements follow Japan’s recent efforts to bolster domestic chipmaking. The country is also vying for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the largest contract chip manufacturer in the world, to build a second chip facility at home.
In a statement released on Friday, the White House said the two heads of state will discuss “key issues from climate change to critical technologies.” The two are also likely to discuss the global economy and joint security issues.
Military tech in focus
The joint statement released after the meeting of the defence chiefs said that given “a severely contested environment,” the forward posture of US forces in Japan should be upgraded “by positioning more versatile, resilient, and mobile forces with increased intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, anti-ship, and transportation capabilities.”
The anti-ship missiles will arrive in Japan under a revamped Marine Corps regiment of 2,000 troops that will focus on advanced intelligence, surveillance and transportation, US officials said. The move is expected to be completed by 2025.
The countries also plan to begin research “on advanced materials, in response to China’s progress in the development of hypersonic weapons,” according to a report by Kyodo News.
Washington also strongly endorsed Japan’s planned military build-up — its biggest since World War Two – fuelled by concerns about Chinese actions in the region.
Tokyo last month announced an unprecedented five-year plan to double defense spending to 2% of Japan’s GDP, in a dramatic departure from seven decades of pacifism. It also announced plans to procure missiles that can strike ships or land-based targets 1,000 km (600 miles) away.
“We heartily welcome the new strategies especially because there is … a remarkable convergence between our strategy and strategies and Japan’s,” Blinken said.
Japan has watched with growing concern China’s belligerence toward Taiwan as Beijing seeks to assert its sovereignty claims over the island.
Austin noted ramped-up Chinese military activities near the Taiwan Strait, but said he seriously doubted they were a sign of plans for an imminent invasion of the island by Beijing.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena