Thu, Jun 23, 2011 - Page 1 News List

US, Japan call for strong Asia-Pacific defense

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

Top US and Japanese defense and foreign affairs officials on Tuesday reaffirmed the US-Japan Alliance and called for peaceful resolution of disputes in the Taiwan Strait through dialogue, while admitting that plans to relocate US troops from a military base in Okinawa would miss their deadline.

The Security Consultative Committee meeting, held in Washington, involved US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Takeaki Matsumoto and Japanese Minister of National Defense Toshimi Kitazawa. This was the first meeting of the committee, informally known as the “2+2 ministerial,” in four years.

In a joint statement, the committee said it recognized the need to address a number of challenges in an “increasingly uncertain security environment,” which included expanding military capabilities and activities in the region, as well as the emergence of non-traditional security concerns.

The US government reaffirmed its commitment to the defense of Japan and to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region, including through regional alliances and the full range of US military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional.

Japan reaffirmed its commitment to provide stable use of facilities and areas by US forces and to support their smooth operation.

The statement said it welcomed continued developments and cooperation with Japan on theater ballistic missile defense — which for years has met strong opposition from Beijing — and called for the study of future issues in preparation for transition to production and deployment of the SM-3 Block IIA missile defense system.

The US also reaffirmed its commitment, first made in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, to strengthen regional deterrence and to maintain and enhance its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

More specifically, in comments that ostensibly targeted China, it stated its intent to tailor its regional defense posture to address proliferation of nuclear technologies and theater ballistic missiles, anti-access/area denial capabilities and other evolving threats, such as to outer space and cyberspace.

On China, the statement said the US and Japan encouraged Beijing’s responsible and constructive role in regional stability and prosperity, cooperation on global issues and its adherence to international norms of behavior. It also reiterated the need for China to improve openness and transparency with respect to its military modernization and activities, and to strengthen confidence-building measures.

Although Taiwan was not mentioned, the statement said members welcomed progress in improving cross-strait relations.

A similar statement following the committee meeting in 2005 resulted in strong condemnation by Beijing, which said at the time it “resolutely opposes the United States and Japan in issuing any bilateral document concerning China’s Taiwan, which meddles in the internal affairs of China, and hurts China’s sovereignty.”

At press time, Beijing had yet to respond to Tuesday’s joint statement.

Meanwhile, the US and Japan also acknowledged they would miss a 2014 deadline for the relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa.

The force realignment plan aims to reduce the US military footprint on Okinawa, which hosts more than half of the 47,000 US troops in Japan. Despite the delay, the two sides confirmed that Marine air operations would be shifted to a less crowded part of Okinawa, where a new airfield is to be built, while about 8,000 Marines are to be shifted to Guam.

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