image

China-Japan relations

Japan and US plan joint armed forces response to Chinese threats to disputed Diaoyu Islands

  • US committed to defending Japan under Article 5 of the two countries’ security treaty
  • Plan being drawn up assumes such emergencies as armed Chinese fishermen landing on the islands
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 November, 2018, 12:43pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 November, 2018, 10:40pm

Japan and the United States are drawing up an operations plan for a combined response by their armed forces to Chinese threats to disputed islands, Japanese government sources said.

The Japanese and US governments are already discussing how to respond in the event of an emergency on or around the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, the sources said, and aim to finish crafting the plan by next March.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has said Washington’s commitment to defend Japan under Article 5 of the two countries’ security treaty extends to the Senkaku Islands. The article obliges the United States to help protect territory under Japanese administration in the case of an armed attack.

But the US government has repeatedly said it will take no position on the issue of sovereignty over the Japan-administrated islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyu.

By working out a plan to deal with a potential military conflict with China, Japan is hoping the United States will take a more active role regarding the sovereignty issue.

The plan being drawn up assumes such emergencies as armed Chinese fishermen landing on the islands, and Japan’s Self-Defence Forces needing to be mobilised after the situation exceeds the capacity of the police to respond, according to the sources.

The Self-Defence Forces on its own has studied how to respond to such threats. The focus of these inter-government talks is how to incorporate the US military’s strike capabilities, the sources said.

“Given that military organisations always need to assume the worst possible situation, it is natural for the two countries to work on this kind of plan against China,” said Bonji Ohara, a former naval attaché at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing who is now a senior fellow at Sasakawa Peace Foundation, a Japanese think tank.

The negotiations between Japan and the United States have been taking place mainly within the framework newly created by the 2015 defence guidelines, called the Bilateral Planning Mechanism, or BPM.

The guidelines stipulate that the SDF and the US military will “conduct bilateral operations to counter ground attacks against Japan by ground, air, maritime, or amphibious forces”.

The two countries already have combined operations plans in the event of an emergency on the Korean peninsula and other situations.