Editorial: US-Japan ties expanding in face of new security threats

January 17 , 2023

When Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with US President Joe Biden on January 14, the American leader endorsed Tokyo’s new twin-track policy of fundamentally strengthening its defense capabilities while engaging in various diplomatic initiatives to advance regional peace.

Japan’s decision to reevaluate its defense strategy—announced late last year—comes after what it views as increasing threats to its national security in the region as well as from various advances in military technologies. To enhance its capabilities in face of these challenges while remaining in the scope of the nation’s commitment to a strictly defensive posture, the US-Japan alliance will need to evolve further.

The Biden-Kishida joint communique acknowledges the need to “modernize the U.S.-Japan relationship for the 21st century.” Until now, Japan has served as the shield of the bilateral security arrangement while the US serves as the sword; going forward, however, Japan will also assume some aspects of the sword—in the case, the capability to strike military bases on adversarial soil.

What must be underscored here is that Japan’s adoption of a counterstrike capability should not be interpreted as adopting a first-strike capacity; its military force is exclusively structured for self-defense. Any capability beyond that would violate Article 9 of the nation’s constitution.

Moreover, even if Japan possesses a counterstrike capability, it would need US assistance to identify and locate targets. Which is why the bilateral alliance will need to upgrade its position on mutual deterrence.

The communique also has the two countries cooperating to meet new and emerging challenges in other domains, including cyberspace and outer space.

The newly revised terms of the Kishida administration’s national security strategy makes it clear that the role of the defense force is to reinforce and facilitate the nation’s means of peaceful diplomacy. It is Komeito’s hope that diplomatic initiatives can take advantage of this enhanced level of deterrence.