Japan and US eye joint research to counter hypersonic weapons, amid China concerns
- The agreement between Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin was reached during an in-person meeting at the Pentagon
- Countries will also cooperate ‘closely and seamlessly’ toward preventing attempts at unilateral change in status quo in the Taiwan Strait, Hamada says
The agreement was reached during talks between Hamada and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, their first in-person meeting since Hamada replaced Nobuo Kishi as defence minister in early August.
Japan and the United States are seeing an increasing need to strengthen their alliance’s deterrence and other capabilities amid concerns that the rules-based international order is being challenged by countries such as China and Russia.
Criticising China for launching ballistic missiles as part of its large-scale exercises near Taiwan following Pelosi’s visit, Hamada and Austin affirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and that a unilateral change in status quo by force in the region is unacceptable.
Japan and the United States will cooperate “closely and seamlessly” toward preventing any such attempts, Hamada said.
Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary. The island is viewed as a potential military flashpoint that could draw the United States into conflict with China.
A Taiwan contingency is also of particular concern for Japan, a US security ally, given the proximity of its islands in the southwest – including the group known by China as the Diaoyus and by Japan as the Senkakus, which are controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.
The Japanese defence minister also told reporters after the meeting that Austin showed “strong” support for Japan’s plan to fundamentally bolster its defence capabilities through a planned update of its national security documents and with a substantial increase in its defence budget.
The defence capabilities that Japan is currently examining include an ability to attack missile-launching sites in an enemy’s territory, which the Asian country has so far opted not to acquire under the post-World War II pacifist Constitution.
In the budget request for the year starting in April, the Japanese defence ministry has requested funds to enhance stand-off capabilities that enable attacks from beyond an enemy’s firing range.
Such a development could be used to build so-called enemy base strike capabilities, or what the Japanese government calls “counterstrike capabilities”.
Japan plans to update its National Security Strategy by the end of this year, reflecting the region’s increasingly challenging security environment.
It would be the first revision of the long-term security and diplomacy policy guideline since it was adopted in 2013.
In March, the US administration of President Joe Biden unveiled an outline of its own National Defence Strategy, calling China its “most consequential strategic competitor” and vowing to prioritise the challenges posed by China over those by Russia.