U.S.-Japan military alliance needs strengthening, experts say — Radio Free Asia

Without a military alliance, Japan cannot defend itself, but even with an alliance, it still needs to strive to expand its defense capabilities, a prominent Japanese security analyst has said.

To a virtual event Held Thursday at the Hudson Institute, a conservative American think tank, Canon Institute for Global Studies research director Kunihiko Miyake spoke about lessons Japan could learn from the ongoing war in Ukraine.

One was the need to strengthen the US-Japan military alliance, first signed in 1951 but now facing new threats, including from China.

He also discussed tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the role of Okinawa, the main island of Okinawa Prefecture, located in the East China Sea between Taiwan and the Japanese mainland.

The U.S.-Japan alliance “has evolved successfully,” Miyake said, adding that Tokyo still needed to develop an effective defense strategy.

“We need to increase the defense budget, increase defense spending and work on various contingency plans,” the Tokyo-based analyst said.

“We have more threats than the Europeans,” he said, hinting that besides Russia, Asian countries also have to deal with security threats from China and North Korea.

On Aug. 31, Japan’s Defense Ministry made its largest budget request of 5.59 trillion yen ($40.4 billion) for fiscal year 2023 to address heightened security challenges.

In June, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he intended to strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities “fundamentally over the next five years”.

Miyake, a former senior diplomat, said Japan ‘could do more with the Quad,’ the security group that includes the United States, Japan, India and Australia, as well as strengthening cooperation with South Korea and with NATO.

A radar installation set up for coastal surveillance on Japan’s westernmost Yonaguni Island, Okinawa prefecture, October 27, 2021. CREDIT: Reuters

Support for Taiwan

As tension mounts in the Taiwan Strait, Japan realizes that “the stability of the situation around Taiwan is also critical to Japan’s security,” according to Japan’s 2022 Defense White Paper.

Tokyo plans to bolster defenses on the southwest outlying islands, with military installations to be set up on some of the islands near Taiwan.

Miyake, who is also the chairman of Japanese think tank the Foreign Policy Institute, said it was vital that the government and military win support from Okinawans in their campaign for a stronger Japan-US alliance. as well as to defend Japan from a possible conflict in Taiwan.

Most of the US military presence in Japan is in Okinawa, but there has been widespread discontent among the population about US military bases there, despite efforts to move them away from central areas of the island.

To deal with new security threats from China, Miyake suggested “increasing joint use of bases” by Japanese and US forces in Okinawa.

US government officials have raised the scenario of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

On Thursday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said during a meeting there is “a distinct threat that there could be a military contingency around Taiwan”.

Sullivan told Bloomberg that the United States would “repel any effort to change the status quo by force” by China.