Japan, U.S. pledge to uphold free, open Indo-Pacific region

Secretary of State Blinken, Secretary of Defense Austin, Minister for Foreign Affairs Hayashi, and Minister of Defense Kishi convened the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee virtually in Washington, D.C. and Tokyo, Japan on January 6 and 7, 2022, respectively.

The Ministers strongly reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and recognized the U.S.-Japan Alliance’s critical role as the cornerstone of regional peace, security, and prosperity. 

They expressed their determination to constantly modernize the Alliance and strengthen joint capabilities by fully aligning strategies and prioritizing goals together, to address evolving security challenges in an ever more integrated manner, with partners and across all instruments of national power, domains, and the full spectrum of situations. 

They acknowledged the urgent challenges presented by geopolitical tensions, the COVID-19 pandemic, arbitrary and coercive economic policies, and the climate crisis, and renewed their commitment to the rules-based international order as well as fundamental values and principles. 

Countering bad actors’ military expansionism

Witnessing a rapid and opaque military expansion that jeopardizes the regional strategic balance, the Ministers shared their concerns about the large-scale development and deployment of nuclear weapons, ballistic and cruise missiles, and advanced weapons systems such as hypersonics.

They also discussed the trend of increasing malign activities in the cyber, space, and other domains, and attempts to change the status quo through coercive or predatory means short of armed conflict.

Japan reiterated its resolve to fundamentally reinforce its defense capabilities to bolster its national defense and contribute to regional peace and stability. The United States welcomed Japan’s resolve and expressed its determination to optimize its posture and capabilities in the Indo-Pacific as expressed in the recently completed Global Posture Review. 

The United States restated its unwavering commitment to the defense of Japan under the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, using its full range of capabilities, including nuclear. The two sides affirmed the critical importance of ensuring that U.S. extended deterrence remains credible and resilient.

China undermines rules-based order

The Ministers expressed their concerns that ongoing efforts by China to undermine the rules-based order present political, economic, military, and technological challenges to the region and the world. They resolved to work together to deter and, if necessary, respond to destabilizing activities in the region. 

They reaffirmed their support for unimpeded lawful commerce and respect for international law, including freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea. They shared their intention to strengthen information-sharing practices, including through efforts to collect and analyze data regarding coercive behavior that undermines regional peace and stability. 

China’s aggression in East China Sea, unlawful claim of South China Sea 

The Ministers voiced concern about China’s activities in the East China Sea, which further undermine regional peace and stability. The United States reiterated that it stands in firm solidarity with Japan in opposing any unilateral action that seeks to change the status quo or to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands, and reaffirmed that Article V of the Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands. 

The Ministers also reiterated their strong objections to China’s unlawful maritime claims, militarization and coercive activities in the South China Sea and recalled with emphasis that the July 2016 award of the Philippines-China arbitral tribunal, constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), is final and legally binding on the parties. 

China’s human rights abuses

The Ministers expressed serious and ongoing concerns about human rights issues in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Hong Kong. They committed to cooperate with all who share a commitment to respect for freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, international law, multilateralism, and a free and fair economic order. 

They underscored the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and encouraged the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.

Reaffirming their commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the Ministers urged North Korea to abide by its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, expressed strong concerns over its advancing nuclear and missile development activities, and confirmed the need for an immediate resolution of the abductions issue. 

They committed to deepen cooperation between and among the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, which is critical for shared security, peace, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

Multilateral alliance with other nations to ensure free, open Indo-Pacific region

The Ministers renewed the September 2021 commitment, with fellow Quad members Australia and India, to promote the free, open, rules-based order. They supported their respective security and defense cooperation with Australia as evidenced by the signing of the landmark Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement, Japan’s first asset protection mission for an Australian vessel last November, and the AUKUS partnership. 

They welcomed greater engagement in the Indo-Pacific by European partners and allies, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, as well as through the EU and the NATO, and expressed support for their expanded multilateral exercises and deployments.

Security cooperation with ASEAN

The Ministers reaffirmed their strong support for ASEAN’s unity and centrality and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. They noted the need to augment security cooperation and capacity-building initiatives with partners in Southeast Asia and Pacific Island countries. 

They condemned violence committed against the people of Myanmar and resolved to sustain efforts toward the immediate cessation of all violence and a swift return to the path of inclusive democracy.

Reiterate resolve to maintain peace, stability in Indo-Pacific region

In addressing the increasingly challenging regional security environment, the United States and Japan resolved to ensure alignment of Alliance visions and priorities through key forthcoming national security strategy documents. 

Through its strategic review process, Japan expressed its resolve to examine all options necessary for national defense including capabilities to counter missile threats. Japan and the United States underscored the need to closely coordinate throughout this process and welcomed the robust progress on evolving Alliance roles, missions, and capabilities, and on bilateral planning for contingencies.

The Ministers underscored the critical importance of strengthened cross-domain capabilities, particularly integrating the land, maritime, air, missile defense, space, cyber, electromagnetic spectrum, and other domains. 

Stressing the need to advance readiness, resiliency, and interoperability, they welcomed the deepening of cooperation, including asset protection missions and joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations, and realistic training and exercises, as well as flexible deterrent options and strategic messaging. 

They also committed to increase joint/shared use of U.S. and Japanese facilities, including efforts to strengthen Japan Self-Defense Forces’ posture in areas including its southwestern islands.

They urged States to abide by international law and implement consensus norms of responsible behavior, including that States should not knowingly allow their territories to be used for internationally wrongful acts.

The Ministers reiterated the collective resolve of the Alliance and underscored their commitment to working in close partnership to preserve peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Photo credit: iStock/Bill Chizek. Yokosuka, Kanagawa / Japan – June 24, 2020: Sailors of the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) manning the rail while returning to port.

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