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U.S. and Japan Revamp Defense Treaty as China Looms

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The United States and Japan are poised to take a historic step forward in strengthening their military alliance, signaling a profound shift in the security dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region. This initiative, set to redefine the contours of the U.S.-Japan security pact for the first time since its inception in 1960, emerges against the backdrop of growing concerns over China’s assertive stance towards Taiwan and the persistent threat posed by North Korea through its military provocations.

The significance of this revamped alliance is underscored by the planned announcement during Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to the White House on April 10. According to a report by the Financial Times, President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Kishida are expected to unveil a new defense agreement that would, among other things, enhance the operational authority of the U.S. Forces in Japan. This marks a pivotal change from the current operational mandate, which necessitates coordination with the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command headquartered in Hawaii.

This strategic enhancement of the U.S.-Japan military alliance is not merely a reaction to the immediate threats in the region but a forward-looking approach to securing peace and stability in the face of evolving challenges. Japan, home to approximately 54,000 U.S. servicemembers along with 45,000 dependents and 8,000 civilian contractors, stands as a central pillar in the U.S.’s strategic posture in Asia.

The roots of this monumental shift can be traced back to the aftermath of World War II when Japan adopted pacifism as a constitutional principle, expressly renouncing war and the maintenance of armed forces with war potential. However, the regional security environment has undergone significant changes since then, prompting Japan to reassess its defense posture. A landmark bill passed in 2015, under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, marked a departure from strict pacifism by allowing Japan’s military to engage in collective self-defense, paving the way for increased military spending and a more proactive defense policy.

This policy shift has not gone unnoticed, particularly by China, which has viewed Japan’s military buildup with suspicion and alarm. The historical animosities between China and Japan add a layer of complexity to their contemporary relations, further strained by Japan’s overtures towards Taiwan. China’s vociferous criticism of Japan’s defense policies, including labeling the 2015 bill as “unprecedented,” underscores the deep-seated tensions that continue to influence Sino-Japanese relations.

Amid these developments, the strategic calculus of the U.S.-Japan alliance has also been influenced by the looming threat of China’s potential aggression towards Taiwan. Admiral John Aquilino, the head of the Indo-Pacific Command, has publicly stated his belief that China could be prepared to invade Taiwan by 2027, highlighting the urgent need for a robust and coordinated response to the challenges posed by China’s military posturing and North Korea’s missile tests.

The upcoming security agreement between the United States and Japan is thus a testament to the enduring strength of their alliance and a recognition of the complex security landscape that demands a sophisticated and nuanced approach. By enhancing the operational capabilities of the U.S. Forces in Japan and deepening military ties, both nations are demonstrating their commitment to maintaining regional stability and deterring aggression.

Western civilization (including figuratively Japan and the Philippines) has started to realize that the world is not such a safe place. Sweden has moved into NATO, Argentina has rejected the China/Russia bloc, the Philippines are allowing U.S. air bases again, and now Japan is updating agreements and preparing for the worst. It seems it is time to choose sides.

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