Japan-U.S. Joint Exercises Evolve to Cover More Spheres.Yomiuri Shimbun
23 April 2015
In the 70 years since the end of World War II, Japan and the United States have gone from bitter enemies to close allies, with ties that extend beyond security to the economy, culture and many other spheres.
The global situation has undergone a radical change in the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, raising the question of what the alliance needs to do to adapt.
This is the first installment of a series that will consider this question as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepares to leave for the United States on Sunday.
March 31 felt like an early summer day in the port of Yokohama.
On the deck of the USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, Japanese and U.S. commanders were giving a press conference.
U.S. Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, commander of the Seventh Fleet, called the Japan-U.S. alliance the “anchor” of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region, and said the partnership between the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Seventh Fleet was the closest in the world.
With Vice Adm. Eiichi Funada, commander of the MSDF’s Self-Defense Fleet, to his left, Thomas said he was looking forward to moving the alliance forward. Funada expressed similar sentiments. “We will strive to deepen our relationship,” he said.
Seventy years ago on Sept. 2, 1945, the USS Missouri was anchored in this same port. On its deck, Japan signed surrender documents.
Former enemies that had fought fiercely on the battlefield have become the “closest partnership in the world.”
The Japan-U.S. security structure has adapted and expanded to address the Cold War, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and the rise of international terrorism and extremism.
While founded on the deterrent force of the U.S. military and Japan’s provision of bases, the alliance is evolving to encompass more reciprocity between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military through the government’s recent approval to exercise the right to collective self-defense in limited circumstances.
This is only bringing the nations closer.
Amid China’s escalating naval advances, Japan-U.S. security cooperation has become more important.
Last October, the MSDF escort vessel Sazanami for the first time joined a Seventh Fleet aircraft carrier squadron on a cruise, nominally for training purposes.
For about a month, the Japanese ship participated in maneuvers with the U.S. military in the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea.
“These weren’t just training exercises, it was a watershed in cooperation,” a senior MSDF official said.
During the cruise, the battle group was on the lookout for Chinese submarines.
“The Chinese were probably aware of the presence of a Japan-U.S. joint squadron,” another senior MSDF official said.
The MSDF’s participation was intended to put a brake on China’s advances by showing cooperation between Japan and the United States.
On April 15, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations issued their first ever “Foreign Ministers’ Declaration on Maritime Security” after a meeting in Lubeck, Germany.
The declaration was aimed at Chinese land reclamation in the South China Sea, and urged the parties involved to abide by international law.
Using language such as, “We strongly oppose any … use of intimidation, coercion or force,” the document harshly criticized China’s aggressive efforts to close off surrounding sea areas. Such harsh wording was crafted at the insistence of Japan and the United States.
Abe’s upcoming visit to the United States is intended to show the strength of the alliance, both domestically and internationally.
“I want to send a message that [the alliance] will play a leading role in global peace and security,” he said on April 8 during a meeting with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
With neighbors like nuclear-armed Russia and China, as well as North Korea, which is continuing its the nuclear development, Japan has held regular talks with the United States on nuclear deterrence since 2010.
As part of this dialogue, the United States has shown top-secret nuclear and other facilities to Japanese officials in charge of foreign affairs and defense.
One Defense Ministry official was given a tour of an intercontinental ballistic missile silo in Montana.
The official said he was taken to a small room deep underground that housed a launch mechanism operated by the insertion of two keys located some distance apart so one individual cannot turn them. A missile can only be launched by two people turning the keys simultaneously.
“It really felt like that was where nuclear deterrence happens,” the official said.
Japan and the United States, in seeking to strengthen their alliance 70 years after the war, are scheduled to hold several joint exercises around the region in such areas as defending outlying islands, medical support and disaster aid.
Such initiatives are important if the alliance is to play a leading role in global peace and security.Speech
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