Explanation: Why Japan Seeks Military Ties Outside US Ally

Explanation: Why Japan Seeks Military Ties Outside US Ally

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TOKYO, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Before meeting President Joe Biden in Washington, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Italy, France, Britain and Canada, in part to forge security ties that could help the country fend off China, North Korea and Russia.


In June, Japan’s defense minister at the time, Nobuo Kishi, said his country was surrounded by nuclear nations that refused to adhere to international norms of behavior.

In the wake of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, Kishida described security in East Asia as “fragile.”

At the top of the list of threats to Japan is China, which is worried it could attack Taiwan or nearby Japanese islands. Chinese military activity is intensifying around the East China Sea, including joint air and naval exercises with Russia.

At the same time, North Korea launched missiles into the Sea of ​​Japan, and in October fired a medium-range missile over Japan for the first time since 2017.


For the past seven decades, Japan, which renounced the right to wage war after its defeat in World War II, has relied on the United States for protection.

In exchange for its promise to defend the country, the US gets bases that allow it to maintain a large military presence in East Asia.

Japan hosts 54,000 US troops, hundreds of warplanes and dozens of warships, led by Washington’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier.


As China’s military power grows along with its economy, the regional balance of power has shifted in Beijing’s favor.

China’s defense spending overtook Tokyo’s two decades ago and is now more than four times greater.

Encouraged by the United States, in December Japan unveiled its biggest military build-up since World War II, with a commitment to double defense spending to 2 percent of GDP within five years.

That would include money for missiles with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) that could hit targets in China.

However, Beijing is expected to continue expanding its military capabilities and is likely to have increasingly sophisticated weapons at its disposal.


For this reason, and again with Washington’s support, Japan is seeking new security partners to support it both militarily and diplomatically.

Those efforts have so far focused on countries that are also strong US allies, including Australia, Britain and France. Tokyo is also seeking closer security ties with India, which since 2004 has met regularly with Japan, the United States and Australia to discuss regional diplomacy as a member of the Quad group.

In London on January 11, during his tour of other G7 countries, Kishida signed a mutual access protection agreement with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, which will make it easier for both countries to conduct military exercises on each other’s territory.

Japan chairs the G7 this year and will host its leaders in Hiroshima in May.

As Britain turns more to Asia, it seeks closer defense ties. In 2021, it sent the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on a visit to Japan and announced that it would permanently stationed two warships in Asian waters.

In December, Japan announced it would do so built a new jet fighter with Britain and Italythe first major international defense project with a country other than the United States since the end of World War II.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Japan’s sometimes troubled relationship with neighboring South Korea has also improved, opening up the possibility of closer military cooperation between the two US allies.

Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Kim Cohill and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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