US and Japan to strengthen military relationship with upgraded Marine unit in attempt to deter China
The United States and Japan will announce a significant strengthening of their military relationship and an upgrade of the US military’s force posture in the country this week, including the stationing of a newly redesigned naval unit with advanced intelligence, surveillance and capabilities. to fire anti-ship missiles, according to two US officials briefed on the matter.
The announcement sends a strong signal to China and will come as part of a series of initiatives designed to underline a rapid acceleration of security and intelligence ties between the countries.
The news is expected to be announced on Wednesday as US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken meet their Japanese counterparts in Washington. The officials are meeting as part of the annual meeting of the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee, days before President Joe Biden plans to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House.
The newly revamped Navy unit will be based in Okinawa and is intended to strengthen deterrence against Chinese aggression in a volatile region and provide a central force that is able to defend Japan and respond quickly to unforeseen situations, they said. officials. Okinawa is seen as key to US military operations in the Pacific – in part because of its proximity to Taiwan. It houses more than 25,000 US military personnel and more than two dozen military installations. Approximately 70% of US military bases in Japan are in Okinawa; An island within Okinawa Prefecture, Yonaguni, lies less than 70 miles from Taiwan, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
It is one of the most significant adjustments to the posture of US military force in the region in years, an official said, underscoring the Pentagon’s desire to transition from past wars in the Middle East to the future in the Indo-Pacific region. . The change comes after simulated war games by a prominent Washington think tank revealed that Japan, and Okinawa in particular, would play a critical role in a military conflict with China, providing the United States with forward and basing capabilities.
“I think it’s fair to say that, in my view, 2023 is likely to be the most transformative year in the posture of US forces in the region in a generation,” said Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security. Case, at the American Enterprise Institute last month.
The news follows the establishment of the first Marine Coastal Regiment in Hawaii last year, in which the 3rd Marine Regiment in Hawaii became the 3rd Marine Coastal Regiment — a key part of the Marine Corps modernization effort outlined in the Force Design report 2030 by General David Berger.
As the service has described, the Marine Coast Regiments are a “mobile, low-signature” unit capable of conducting strikes, coordinating air and missile defenses, and supporting surface warfare.
The Washington Post first reported the soon-to-be-announced changes.
The announcement comes less than a month after Japan unveiled a new national security plan that signals the country’s biggest military buildup since World War II, doubling defense spending and deviating from its pacifist constitution in the face of growing threats. from regional rivals, including China.
China has increased its naval and air forces in areas near Japan as it claims the Senkaku Islands, an uninhabited chain controlled by Japan in the East China Sea, as its sovereign territory.
In late December, Japan said Chinese government ships had been spotted in the immediate area around the Senkakus, known as the Diaoyus in China, for 334 days in 2022, the most since 2012 when Tokyo bought some of the islands from an owner Japanese private, public. broadcaster NHK announced. From December 22 to 25, Chinese government vessels spent almost 73 consecutive hours in Japanese territorial waters off the islands, the longest such incursion since 2012, the NHK report said.
China has also increased its military pressure on Taiwan, the self-governing island whose security Japanese leaders have said is vital to Japan’s own security. In August, that pressure included Beijing firing five missiles that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone near Taiwan in response to then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.
Before the announcement was made public, Chinese government officials were reacting to reports in Japanese media.
“US-Japan military cooperation should not harm the interests of any third party or undermine peace and stability in the region,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press conference in Beijing on Tuesday.
A State Department official explained that the war in Ukraine and the strengthening of China-Russia relations have prompted the US and Japan to reach a series of new agreements that have been under consideration for some time.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine kind of sets things in motion,” the official said. “The relationship between Putin and Xi Jinping that we saw in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics was like, wait a minute, the Russians and the Chinese are working in new ways. We are facing new challenges.”