Jan. 11 (UPI) — U.S. and Japanese leaders announced a series of initiatives to strengthen their “cornerstone” alliance to keep the Indo-Pacific “free and open,” ahead of Friday’s White House meeting between President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted the Security Consultative Committee Meeting, also called the 2+2 talks, Wednesday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Austin and Blinken met with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Japanese Defense Minister Hamada Yasukasu to reaffirm the U.S.-Japan alliance.
“It is a shared commitment to uphold the rules-based international order and to strengthen resilient partnerships around the globe. And the essential U.S.-Japan alliance is at the center of these efforts,” Austin said.
During the meeting, Austin and Blinken expressed support for Japan’s new national security and defense strategies that include “counterstrike” capability and a boost in defense spending over the next five years.
The security and defense leaders also discussed the temporary deployment of an American MQ-9 Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle unit to Kanoya Air Base in southern Japan to increase presence over the East Sea.
“In our meeting today, we strongly endorsed Japan’s decision to acquire a counterstrike capability, and we affirm that close coordination on employing this capability will strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance,” Austin said.
As the group condemned Russia’s Ukraine war and North Korea‘s recent posturing while calling China the “greatest strategic challenge in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” they pledged to keep and modernize U.S. forces in Japan in order to maintain security in the Indo-Pacific and to strengthen ties with Australia, South Korea and India.
Currently, there are about 50,000 American service members based in Japan, which includes between 1,800 and 2,000 Marines.
“We’ve decided that the 12th Artillery Regiment would remain in Japan and be reorganized into the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment by 2025,” Austin announced.
“We will equip this new formation with advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as anti-ship and transportation capabilities that are relevant to the current and future threat environments.”
Blinken and Austin also restated their commitment to the defense of Japan, under Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, pledging to use its full range of capabilities that include nuclear. The officials announced an update to the treaty to reflect current trends, which includes cyber as a military domain under Article V, but will now be updated to add space.
Japan also pledged to work with U.S. officials to “to employ interoperable and advanced capabilities” and to establish a permanent joint headquarters to support the alliance.
Before meeting with President Biden on Friday in Washington, D.C., Japanese Prime Minister Kishida met with British Prime Minister Rich Sunak in London on Wednesday to sign a defense agreement that will allow Britain and Japan to deploy forces in each other’s countries.