The United States will stand by Japan’s efforts to expand the role of its military, including its right for “collective self-defense,” in what officials in Washington said would bolster the two nations’ alliance.
In a statement ahead of President Barack Obama’s Tokyo visit, US officials lauded Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to reinterpret Japan’s postwar pacifist constitution, saying such move to allow Self-Defense Forces to assist allies in times of conflict is a “mutual interest” for both nations.
“The Department of Defense welcomes Japan’s re-examination of their interpretation of its constitution relating to the right of collective self-defense,” said Marine Lt. Col. Jeff Pool, a Pentagon spokesman.
“We believe it would allow the US and Japan to do more together to continue to advance prosperity and security in the region.”
On Monday, the White House expressed support for Japan’s reassessment of its defense role.
“We support Japan’s re-examination of the legal basis of collective self-defense insofar as we believe that that supports efforts to enhance interoperability and also for our alliance to be more capable at contributing peace and security in the Asia Pacific,” Evan Medeiros, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council said.
“Japan plays an important role in encouraging and bringing about peace and security in the Asia-Pacific and globally, we encourage and support all efforts for Japan to do that.”
Kicking off his Asian tour in Japan today, Obama is expected to shore up the United States’ alliance with the second-largest economy in the region as it faces pressure from China over its rising militarism.
In a recent interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, Obama clearly stated the disputed Senkaku Islands are subject to Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty.
“The policy of the United States is clear—the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security,” Obama said in a written reply ahead of his visit. (Article 5 stipulates US defense obligations to Japan, which also apply to territories under the administration of the Japanese government.)
“We oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.”
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: “US and Japanese ship sail alongside each other during a passing exercise.” by Official U.S. Navy Page/Flickr