The U.S. and Japan will hold their first “two plus two” meeting, bringing together two ministers of foreign affairs and defense from each country. Both sides agree that stronger pressure should be applied to North Korea, as it stubbornly continues to develop nuclear missiles. In order to contain it, Japan and the U.S. must display unbroken cooperation. I would like to give credit to the U.S. for making it clear that it will continue to participate in Japan's defense.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula is not one such that a lenient, simple presentation of documents in praise of Japan-U.S. unity will be enough to drive off danger. It is essential that the two countries further flesh out this alliance, with a firm basis in mutual agreement.
Japan announced an expansion of the role of national self-defense, but how will this proceed? I would like to see this explained to the people in a way that is easy to understand, with a connection drawn between this and the National Defense Program Guidelines revisions, which will be enacted this fall.
Unlike the previous two plus two meeting held two years ago to revise the guidelines of cooperation in mutual defense, this upcoming meeting is not strictly necessary. In this instance, the U.S. is granting the strong wish of the Abe administration.
Concerns over the Trump administration set the scene for this meeting. When Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe met in February, Trump referred to the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance, but even now people remember the isolationist comments he made during his presidential campaign.
Trump also sought an avenue to display the Japan-U.S. alliance, to prove to North Korea and China that the U.S. would defend Japan and South Korea.
If we think about such circumstances, it is obvious that Japan should work on strengthening its own defenses. Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera announced plans to install a new land missile defense system, Aegis Ashore, which is a step in that direction. Eventually, Japan and the U.S. will venture into a unified missile defense system – that is the path to making the Japan-U.S. alliance even stronger.
They should also begin to consider the ultimate missile defense – an attack on enemy bases.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull once declared, “If there is an attack on the United States by North Korea, then the ANZUS* will be invoked and Australia will come to the aid of the United States.” Turnbull has pointed out that while he and Trump do not always see eye to eye, their disagreements do not impact their alliance.
Australia and the U.S. are obligated to defend one another under the ANZUS treaty, while Japan, under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, does not have the same responsibility to defend the U.S. It would not be appropriate to discuss the two as though they were the same. Nonetheless, the North Korea problem is a matter of life and death for Japan.
In order to continue attracting the United States' gaze toward Asia, Japan and the U.S. must tackle the issue of stability in Asia as a unified front.
*Translator’s note: ANZUS stands for the 1951 Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty.