US urges Japan towards military readiness to balance China threat

US officials in Tokyo propose deploying new intermediate-range missiles to region

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File photo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews JSDF soldiers, October 2016

File photo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews JSDF soldiers, October 2016 (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The United States is urging its ally Japan to boost its military capabilities and inform the public about the threat posed by China’s expansionist activity, with Washington also proposing new missile deployments to the region.

A senior U.S. military official speaking from Tokyo on Monday (Oct. 22) warned Japan about the antagonistic behavior displayed by China, especially in maritime regions where Beijing makes territorial claims. Last week at a security talk in Japan, U.S. officials also raised the prospect of deploying new ground-based intermediate range missile systems in the country.

Following the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in August, and in response to China’s increasing militarism in the Indo-Pacific, Washington is now considering increasing its missile arsenal in the region. Japan is considered a likely partner that may be willing host new missile platforms.

On Oct. 18, several top U.S. officials from the Department of Defense and the State Department reportedly met with counterparts in Japan to discuss issues of mutual concern, reports the Asahi Shimbun. According to a Bloomberg report, an anonymous U.S. official in Tokyo said that the U.S. is now encouraging Japan to invest more in defense to ensure regional stability and balance the growing threat from China.

Under the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, there has been a concerted effort towards amending Japan’s pacifist constitution, which was drafted with U.S. oversight following World War II. It now appears that the U.S. is urging the Japanese government to move forward towards an amendment process, with the U.S. military encouraging “public discussion” between Tokyo and the Japanese public on the issues, reports Bloomberg.

In a sign that Tokyo is willing to take a stronger approach towards projecting military power and defending its interests, Japan recently announced that it will not be joining the U.S.-led coalition in the Middle East to protect fuel shipments. Instead, Japan will be unilaterally dispatching its own Maritime Self-Defense Force to the region to safeguard oil shipments and merchant vessels.