American and Japanese officials are at loggerheads in discussions toward completing their “vision statement” updating their 17-year-old defense cooperation guidelines, according to Japanese experts.
An interim five-page planning document released last week by US and Japanese officials laid out a broad agenda for possible cooperation that includes disaster response, ISR, cyber, intelligence sharing, air and missile defense programs and defense equipment and technology cooperation. It also focuses on the need to promote “seamless” operation between the two militaries on a global scope.
The new guidelines are being renegotiated in a world with vastly different threats. In East Asia, the allies are coping with the rise of an economically powerful, confident and potentially expansionist China and the prospect of an unstable North Korean regime that could not only field nuclear weapons, but later, mate them with intermediate and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The non-binding agreement is all about “expanding the scope of our alliance, and the reason for that is that Japan has already been working since 1997 in places far from Japan” such as in Afghanistan and in hot spots in Africa, said a US State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The two sides agreed that they need to “improve our system for how we make decisions in a crisis,” the State Department official said, adding that the new guidelines will provide a framework for “how the US and Japan share roles and missions” across the globe.
But the interim document has been made necessarily vague and brief because of the huge array of unresolved issues between the two sides, said Takashi Kawakami, deputy director and professor of the Institute of World Studies at Takushoku University. From the Japanese side, negotiators feel that the US is asking too much, while Japan is frustrated that the US won’t flat-out state that the main reason the guidelines need extensive revision is due to China, he said.