US, Japan To Initiate Huge Defense Treaty Upgrade With Eye On China

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Mar 27, 2024 - 10:40 PM

The United States and Japan are poised to unveil their largest defense treaty revision in decades. The FT has reported that President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are soon to "announce plans to reorganize the U.S. armed forces in Japan to strengthen the development of operational plans and training of the U.S.-Japan at the summit in Washington D.C. on the 10th of next month."

Crucially the new agreement is expected to invest the three-star commander of the US Forces in Japan with more operational authority. As it currently stands, and following the development of the US-Japan Security Treaty first signed in 1960, the US commander is required to coordinate approval for operations with US Indo-Pacific Command based out of Hawaii. 

US Indo-Pacific Command/Flickr

All of this comes amid the backdrop of China-Taiwan tensions being continually on the rise, and as North Korea flexes its military might in response to joint US-South Korea drills on the peninsula.

Japan currently hosts an estimated 54,000 US military troops plus another at least 8,000 US civilian contractors. Recently there were fears that a Western troop presence would be expanded in Japan with the proposed opening of a NATO office there, but the plan was nixed after strong protestations from Beijing.

Analyzing the coming upgrade to the US-Japan defense treaty, one regional report explains: "This review responds to criticisms that it is inconvenient for rapid response in case of emergency because of the distance between the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii and the Japan Self-Defense Forces, which are 3850 miles away and have a 19-hour time difference."

Prime Minister Kishida has made it a theme of the past couple years that Tokyo is committed to making great strides at becoming an unambiguous regional and "strategic leader" as a "security provider in the Indo-Pacific." However, Japan officials have long emphasized a stronger armed forces primarily for the sake of 'deterrence' - something which Washington has encouraged. Naturally, China doesn't see these developments as merely for deterrence.

The past two years has also witnessed a flurry of activity between the US and Japan at numerous levels of government especially focusing on an overhaul in the U.S.–Japan defense posture and strategy. There's also been a plan in motion for a restructuring Marine Corps forces stationed on and around Okinawa.