Japan’s closest ally, the United States, will deploy two missile defense ships to the island nation, a move made to reassure Tokyo over looming security concerns and an increasingly bellicose North Korea.
Visiting US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday reinforced Washington’s commitment to a mutual defense pact with Tokyo and announced its plans to bring in two more Aegis destroyers with ballistic missile defense capabilities to join the fleet currently stationed in Japan.
Hagel and his Japanese counterpart, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, also pledged to shore up cooperation between the two nations in dealing with North Korea.
“These steps will greatly enhance our ability to defend both Japan and the US homeland from North Korean ballistic missile threats,” Hagel told reporters at Japan’s defense ministry.
This coincides with an order to shoot down any North Korean missiles it deems a threat to Japan after the rogue nations fired medium-range rockets into the Sea of Japan, which prompted retaliatory strikes—also fired into the sea—by South Korea.
North Korea fired the two Rodong missiles last month in an apparent show of defiance just as the US, Japan, and South Korea began discussions on how to curb the North’s nuclear threats.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reassessing Japan’s pacifist constitution, as he seeks to beef up the country’s military posture and take on bigger roles on the world stage by the end of this year.
Tokyo raised concerns about Beijing’s military buildup and increasingly assertive behavior in claiming disputed territories in the region.
China views Japan’s current spate of militarization as reminiscent of the buildup to WWII, and is accusing Tokyo of a shift to the far right.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: “090730-N-0000X-001” by U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos/Flickr