TOKYO — The United States and Japan are close to concluding a set of bilateral defense rules that if finalized would give Japan’s military new powers to act when U.S. forces are threatened by a third country, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, speaking during a visit to Tokyo, said the revision of the “defense guidelines” would transform U.S. military ties with Japan, which is grappling with a missile threat from North Korea and China’s moves to assert control of areas off its coast.
Under a previous bilateral arrangement, Japanese forces could protect the U.S. military only if it was operating in Japan’s direct defense in areas close to the country. U.S. officials say the new rules, once given final approval, would broaden the geographic scope and, significantly, allow Japan to respond to an attack on the U.S. military even if the American forces are not acting in defense of Japan at the time.
A senior defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations, called the new rules “a big, big deal.” He said they were also intended to empower Japan to use its missile defense systems to protect U.S. military assets under a greater range of circumstances.
“With missile defense, the more radars you have and the more shots