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EDITORIAL | Kishida Must Buckle Down on Enhanced Deterrence Agenda with US

That Japan could be drawn into US wars is a sorely mistaken view. Kishida showed how China, Russia, and North Korea are greater threats to Japan than to the US.



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden shake hands during their summit meeting at the White House on March 10. (© Kyodo)

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently met with US President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington DC. 

What made these talks stand out was the focus on defense cooperation. It has been designed to quickly and reliably enhance the deterrence and response capabilities of the bilateral alliance. 

After the meeting, their Joint Leaders' Statement said the two countries recognized "the speed with which regional security challenges evolve." It clearly stated that the alliance structures must be able to respond accordingly to meet these critical changes.

No doubt, the tone of the statement reflects a sense of acute concern amidst the current severe security situation. If Japan and the United States neglect their deterrence efforts, it could lead to a Taiwan emergency. That, in turn, might trigger a Japan emergency. 

We support the agreement reached at the summit on measures designed to avert such an emergency. The parties must steadily implement them, beginning now. 

Filipino activists hold a protest condemning China's actions during an encounter in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, outside of the Chinese Consulate in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines, April 9, 2024. (©REUTERS/Lisa Marie David)

Recognizing the Dangerous Security Environment 

Both leaders showed an appropriate understanding of the international situation. Their joint statement declared that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is "an indispensable element of global peace and security," and they urged a peaceful solution to the Taiwan issue. 

Kishida and Biden also strongly opposed China's ongoing attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the East and South China Seas through force or coercion. As well, they criticized North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles. The US side further pledged cooperation in finding an immediate solution to the abductions issue. 

In addition, the joint statement expressed firm opposition to "Russia's brutal war of aggression against Ukraine." It pledged to continue "to impose severe sanctions on Russia and provide unwavering support for Ukraine."


Concerning the Mideast, the statement condemned Hamas and other terror organizations and endorsed Israel's right to defend itself. But it also expressed strong concern about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza zone.

Prime Minister Kishida visits Arlington National Cemetery on his trip to Washington, DC on April 9. (Courtesy of Prime Minister's Office)

Command and Control Coordination is Essential

The joint statement also stated that, as "global partners," Japan and the United States should strengthen collaboration. On that subject, it specifically named fields such as defense, economic security, advanced technology, and space

It committed both the Self-Defense Forces and the US military to improve their frameworks for command and control. At the same time, it called for establishing a forum on Defense Industrial Cooperation, Acquisition and Sustainment (DICAS). 

The joint statement's call for promoting security cooperation with other like-minded countries is also commendable. This helps in terms of creating a network of deterrence against China. It could involve cooperation by Japan's development of cutting-edge technologies with AUKUS, the trilateral security framework including the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Also, it could be promoted through the cooperation of Japan, the US, South Korea, and NATO

Essential to this is the improvement of the command-and-control framework. This will take place against the backdrop of Japan's establishment of a "joint operations command" due to happen at the end of FY2024. It seeks to include a "joint operations commander" with a central command of ground, maritime, and air Self-Defense Forces. 

Getting to 'Enhanced Deterrence'

Since the US Indo-Pacific Command is based in far-off Hawaii, concern has been voiced about possible disparities in combat approaches. It would be a revolutionary development if the SDF and US military could collaborate daily in operational planning and unit operations. Moreover, this would certainly enhance deterrence. 

Of course, Japan is an independent nation. As Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi explained at a press conference in November 2023, the SDF and US military must continue to maintain separate command structures. 

President Biden has declared that the US-Japan alliance is stronger today than it has ever been throughout history. Furthermore, he has welcomed Japan's acquisition of a counterattack capability, the plan to increase defense spending and related budget outlays to 2% of GDP, and the revised guidelines for the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology

President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida share a toast at the State Dinner on April 10. (Courtesy of Prime Minister's Office)

Japan's Profile is Rising

Among the G7 nations, Japan is situated closest to the authoritarian states of Russia, China, and North Korea. 

This is also an era in which the United States alone will be unable to defend peace and stability in East Asia, the Indo-Pacific region, or the world as a whole. Japan's relative role and presence in international politics is even greater today than when it was the world's second-largest economy. That is why Prime Minister Kishida was honored as a state guest during his US visit. 


Some are concerned that Japan could be drawn into US wars. But such a viewpoint is sorely mistaken. China, Russia, and North Korea represent greater threats to Japan than they do to the United States. 

Today Japan finds itself in a position where, to maintain peace and prosperity in all of its sovereign territory, including the Senkaku Islands, it must "draw in" the US regarding security issues. It is by enhancing its deterrence capabilities that it can preserve peace. 

In that sense, Prime Minister Kishida's just concluded US trip was so important. It also lent conviction to his statements that "the time has come for Japan and the US to show their true worth as global partners," and "Japan will always stand with the US."

President Biden also announced that the US was prepared to defend Japan with the full spectrum of its capabilities, including nuclear weapons. He said it would do so according to Article 5 of the Japan-US security treaty.

Furthering Deterrence Through '2+2'

The two leaders pledged to have their respective foreign and defense ministers discuss the form that US extended deterrence should take in line with Japan's increased defense capabilities at the next Japan-US Security Consultative Committee (2+2) meeting. There is an urgent need to consider all aspects of our defense posture, including nuclear deterrence. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun