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With New Rules, Japan Emerges in Pacific

With New Rules, Japan Emerges in Pacific

WASHINGTON and TOKYO — A new agreement between the US and Japan sets up the island nation to take a larger role in the politics of the Pacific while opening new opportunities for military research and development.

The updated guidelines for the US-Japan military relationship reflect the changes in the Pacific that have occurred since the last version in 1997.

They also reflect the changes that began last year when the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began the process of moving toward collective self-defense and away from a posture that allowed homeland defense only.

That process is accelerated by the new guidelines agreed to last week at the 2+2 meetings of US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani.

Speaking after the event, Kishida summed up the new guidelines: “Japan, in close cooperation with the United States, will continue to contribute even more proactively to ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of not only Japan but the Asia-Pacific region and the international community.”

That proactive approach is a major shift for Japan, and one that could set the nation up as a hub for countries in the region concerned about the growing power of China.

Nicholas Szechenyi, deputy director of the Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the new guidelines reflect the fact that China’s expansionist signals mean other nations in the Asia-Pacific region can no longer just go it alone.

“Japan has focused on bilateral defense relationships and is pursuing those, but also wants to add this trilateral element, Szechenyi said. “It’s all interwoven, but you have the core of US-Japan and then the idea is to create common strategic objectives with other partners in the region and have a web of partnerships that support regional stability.”

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