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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 August 16 - 22  > Japan-US security meeting uses N. Korea crisis to further increase Japan’s military cooperation under war laws
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2017 August 16 - 22 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Japan-US security meeting uses N. Korea crisis to further increase Japan’s military cooperation under war laws

August 18, 2017

The Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (“2+2”) meeting between foreign and defense cabinet-level officials took place on August 17 for the first time since the Trump administration was inaugurated in January. A major focus of the meeting was on how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.

The “2+2” joint statement emphasizes the need to “bolster the capabilities and the Alliance” to “deter and respond” to “threats” from North Korea. To achieve this, the guidance given in the statement calls for making the current Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines and Japan’s war laws more effective.

Furthermore, the statement stresses that Japan should expand its role in areas such as Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), military training and exercises, research and development, capacity building, ant the joint/shared use of facilities.

The joint statement made no specific mention of collective self-defense. However, Japanese Defense Minister Onodera Itsunori on August 10 at a Lower House Security Committee meeting hinted at the possibility that Japan will exercise its collective self-defense right to deal with any ballistic missile that flies over Japan toward Guam. Considering the fact that the Self-Defense Forces in May carried out its new duty of protecting U.S. military vessels and that the government has decided to introduce a new missile defense system, there exists the danger that the ongoing North Korea crisis will be used to accelerate the move to turn Japan into a full-fledged war-fighting nation.

However, the enhancement of the bilateral alliance through these measures not only will fall short of working to resolve the crisis but also could bring out an increase in military tensions.

Hostile eyes on Okinawans’ protest against new US base construction

Regarding the construction of a new U.S. base in Nago’s Henoko district in Okinawa, the two governments in the joint statement reaffirmed that the construction plan is “the only solution that avoids the continued use of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma,” and underscored the need to achieve “its completion as soon as possible.”

The Japanese and U.S. governments have been ignoring Okinawans’ strong opposition and the lawsuit filed by the prefectural government to seek a suspension of the ongoing construction work and have resorted to trampling on local voices of opposition. On top of that, it is also problematic that regarding the construction plan, the Japan-U.S. Joint Statement points to “the adverse impact of further delays on the ability of the Alliance.” The expression in the “2+2” joint statement, which appears to cast hostile eyes on Okinawans’ protest movement opposing the new U.S. base construction, underlines the high-handed attitude of the Abe government which forcibly removes local opposition activists.

At the same time, such an arrogant attitude also mirrors the Abe government’s impatience caused by the fact that the construction of the new U.S. base has largely been delayed due to Okinawans’ persistent protests that are supported by the majority of citizens nationwide.

The return of the U.S. Futenma base by fiscal 2022 or later as stated by the current Japan-U.S. agreement is hardly feasible. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense’s roadmap, which was shown in a report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in April, indicates that the construction in Henoko district will continue until at least 2026.

It can be said that the Japanese and U.S. governments are covering up this inconsistency in the target date with a use of menacing rhetoric.

Past related articles:
> Okinawa takes national gov’t to court in order to block non-authorized destruction of coral reefs in Henoko [July 25, 2017]
> Shii strongly protests sending of Japan’s warship to protect US vessel [May 2, 2017]
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