US endorses Japan’s pursuit of enemy base strike capabilities

Posted on : 2022-05-24 16:57 KST Modified on : 2022-05-24 16:57 KST
Japan’s decision to start full-scale rearmament and expand its military role will likely lead to tensions over the Taiwan Strait and elsewhere
US President Joe Biden (center) stands with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (left) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) at the kick-off event for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework on May 23. (EPA/Yonhap News)
US President Joe Biden (center) stands with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (left) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) at the kick-off event for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework on May 23. (EPA/Yonhap News)

US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held a summit on Monday in Tokyo, where they announced that the US-Japan alliance would be strengthening its deterrence capabilities.

Biden also announced the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) to strengthen economic ties with the Indo-Pacific region as well as to contain China. It seems the two countries are trying to keep China in check in terms of both security and economy through a strengthened bilateral alliance and the newly-launched IPEF.

China was the main topic of discussion for the first official face-to-face summit between the two leaders, held in Tokyo on Monday.

In a joint statement subtitled “Strengthening a Free and Open International Order,” the leaders of the US and Japan revealed that they had “discussed continuing actions by China that are inconsistent with the international rules-based order.” They also said they agreed to “work together to strengthen deterrence to maintain peace and stability in the region.”

Regarding the Taiwan Strait, an issue on which China remains highly sensitive, the two leaders also “reiterated the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element in security and prosperity in the international community.”

Biden and Kishida allocated an entire paragraph of their joint declaration to China’s actions in the East and South China seas, calling such movements “unilateral attempts to change the status quo.”

Japan and the US also called on China to “contribute to arrangements that reduce nuclear risks, increase transparency, and advance nuclear disarmament,” mentioning Beijing’s ongoing increase in its nuclear capabilities.

Regarding trilateral military cooperation with South Korea, the statement welcomed the inauguration of the new South Korean administration while also stressing the “critical importance of close ties and cooperation among Japan, the United States, and the ROK [South Korea], including security ties.”

The wording used in the statement points to a stronger push for trilateral joint military drills going forward.

In the afternoon, Biden headed to the Izumi Garden Gallery in Tokyo where he held a press conference for the launch of the IPEF.

“We’re writing the new rules for the 21st century economy that are going to help all of our countries’ economies grow faster and fairer,” Biden said.

Kishida also stated that the “United States in the Indo-Pacific region is making economic interest known and highly interested, and the very posture shown by the United States is something we highly value in Japan.”

President Yoon Suk-yeol also participated in the event via video, saying that “solidarity and cooperation between global countries are more necessary than ever.”

Thirteen countries, including South Korea, the US, and Japan, attended the first meeting of the IPEF. Taiwan expressed its willingness to participate but was ultimately not included.

At the previous summit in April of last year, the leaders of the US and Japan declared that they would contain China's military actions, mentioning “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” for the first time since 1969.

One year later during this week’s summit, Kishida declared an increase in defense costs and the acquisition of “enemy base strike capability” in order to strengthen Japan’s deterrence and countering capabilities against China, a strategy that received strong support from Biden. Reinforcing deterrence and countermeasures means that Japan will not only strengthen its military power, but will also be prepared to use it when necessary.

Japan’s decision to start full-scale rearmament and expand its military role means the conflict between the US-Japan alliance and China over the Taiwan Strait and other issues will also grow.

Regarding the moves to contain China, which span both the fields of security and economy, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday that “the Asia-Pacific has once again come to a crossroads of history,” adding that China will “unequivocally reject any attempt to introduce military blocs and bloc confrontation into the Asia-Pacific region.”

By Kim So-youn, Tokyo correspondent; Choi Hyun-june, Beijing correspondent

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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