US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with his Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera at the Pentagon on Monday and afterwards at their joint press conference reiterated the United States’ commitment to honor its defense commitments to Japan. This includes the nuclear umbrella, which is a guarantee by a nuclear state, in this case the US, to defend its non-nuclear allied state, which is Japan.
The meeting between the two secretaries comes on the heel of North Korea’s continued nuclear threats against the US and its allies in the region and Japan’s continued territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Hagel said that North Korea’s behavior is the “most obvious threat to stability in the region”. Although Pyongyang has been silent for the past few days, it is still not enough for Japan and other countries in the region to lower their alert levels against the reclusive state. The US is planning to deploy another X-band radar system to Japan, which can track the trajectory of ballistic missiles.
With regards to the tensions between Japan and China, the US is still maintaining its stance that they do not have a position on the overall sovereignty of the islands, but that they recognize Japan’s administrative control over the Senkakus. They will honor their security treaty allocations and the US “opposes any unilateral course of action” that seeks to undermine this control. This positioning seeks to calm any doubts from observers that the US will honor its commitment to Japan, given that they are also trying to improve their own relations with China.
The two also announced the launch of a defense working group as part of their efforts to build on their bilateral defense cooperation. They will be focusing on areas like surveillance and reconnaissance and will also be conducting a review of the existing guidelines on bilateral defense cooperation. Part of the bilateral agreement is the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture and Onodera stressed that this is crucial to “mitigating the impact on Okinawa.”
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