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Editorial: Integration of Japan, US security strategies must not undermine Japan's stance

The Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (two-plus-two) talks were recently held for the first time in a year. Japan's foreign and defense ministers agreed with their U.S. counterparts to deepen cooperation with a view to effectively applying Japan's counterstrike capabilities, or the ability to strike bases in other countries to knock out missile launch sites.

    The possession of counterstrike capabilities represents a major shift in Japan's security policy, which is grounded in an exclusively defense-oriented stance. Concerns linger on as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's administration tries to employ its security policy while integrating it step by step with the United States' defense strategy.

    Cooperation from the U.S. is essential for gathering satellite data and other information to detect missile launches targeting Japan. According to the two governments' joint statement, in certain circumstances, attacks into, from, or within space could lead to the invocation of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which stipulates the United States' obligation to defend Japan in the event of an armed attack. This scenario is said to include attacks on Japanese satellites.

    The two-plus-two talks were held after the Kishida administration reformed three security-related documents, including its National Security Strategy, in December last year.

    In the background is China, which has continued to rapidly bolster its military power. The Japanese and U.S. governments have regarded China's behavior as a growing concern that poses the "greatest strategic challenge," and in their joint communique, emphasized that there was "unprecedented alignment" between the two countries' stances.

    The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and the U.S. military are the two key players of Japan's national security. For many years, they divided their roles, with U.S. forces acting as the offensive "spear," and Japan's SDF specializing as the defensive "shield."

    As the international security landscape is undergoing drastic changes, it is perhaps necessary to strengthen the alliance between Japan and the U.S. However, if Japan possesses counterstrike capabilities, it will assume parts of the offensive role of a "spear." The Ministry of Defense plans to buy U.S.-made Tomahawk missiles in bulk, and U.S. influence is growing in the sphere of military equipment as well.

    Meanwhile, the possibility of Japan exercising the right to collective self-defense and counterattacking a country attacking the U.S. military by citing a security legislation-based "threat to Japan's existence" remains on the table. There has been no organized conclusion on how to respond in cases where the positions and national interests of the two countries differ.

    What's more, even though the Japanese government has made decisions to possess counterstrike capabilities, greatly increase defense spending, and raise taxes to secure funds for these initiatives, Prime Minister Kishida has not explained these matters head-on to the people of Japan.

    Japan's defense strategy and the Japan-U.S. alliance are being put to the test. Both the ruling and opposition parties should exhaust discussion on the matter in the regular Diet session to be convened soon.

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