US and Japan to strengthen military relationship with upgraded Marine unit in attempt to deter China


The United States and Japan will announce a major strengthening of their military relationship and an overhaul of the U.S. military’s position in the country this week, including the deployment of a new naval unit that has intelligence -advanced intelligence, observation skills and old shooting skills. – cruise missiles, according to two US officials.

The announcement sends a strong signal to China and comes in a series of events designed to highlight the rapid acceleration of peace and intelligence ties between the countries.

The news is expected to be announced on Wednesday when US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken meet their Japanese counterparts in Washington. Officials gather for the annual US-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting, days before President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the House White.

The newly reformed naval group will be based in Okinawa and is intended to bolster China’s offensive in the troubled region and provide a standing force that can defend Japan and respond quickly to potential threats, said the officials. Okinawa is considered key to US military operations in the Pacific – in part because of its proximity to Taiwan. It is home to over 25,000 US troops and over twenty military installations. About 70% of US military bases in Japan are in Okinawa; An island in 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 behavior of US forces in the region in years, an official said, underscoring the Pentagon’s desire to move from from the Middle East to the future Indo-Pacific region. . The changes come as war games from a prominent Washington think tank have found that Japan, and Okinawa in particular, will play a major role in a military conflict with China, giving of the United States in the setting and basic options.

“I think it’s fair to say that, in my view, the year 2023 could stand as the most transformative year for the conduct of US forces in the region in a generation,” said Ely Ratner, Secretary Indo-Pacific Defense Assistant. Affairs, at the American Enterprise Institute last month.

The news follows the first Marine Littoral Regiment deployment to Hawaii last year, which made Hawaii’s 3rd Marine Regiment the 3rd Littoral Regiment – an important part of the effort renewal of the Marine Corps outlined in the report Force Design 2030. by General David Berger.

As the service describes them, the Marine Littoral Regiments are “mobile, low-signature” units capable of conducting strikes, coordinating air and missile defense and supporting land warfare.

The Washington Post first reported the imminent change.

In addition to revamping the country’s Marines, the United States and Japan will announce Wednesday that they will expand their defense pact to include air strikes, U.S. officials said, though despite growing concerns about the rapid progress of China’s space program and development of hypersonic weapons.

In November, China sent three astronauts to the nearly completed space station, as Beijing plans to establish a permanent presence in space. China also looked at the sides of the moon and Mars.

The two allies will declare that Article V of the US-Japan Defense Treaty, first signed in 1951, applies to attacks from space or inside, the official said. . In 2019, the United States and Japan clarified that the defense treaty applies to space and that cyber attacks can be armed attacks in certain circumstances.

The United States has watched closely as China rapidly develops its hypersonic weapons system, including a 2021 missile that orbits the Earth before launching a hypersonic glider that hits its target. It’s a wake-up call for the United States, which has lagged behind China and Russia in advanced hypersonic technology.

The two countries will also build on their use of Japan’s infrastructure and conduct more military exercises in Japan’s southwestern islands, a move that is sure to anger Beijing, given the proximity of Taiwan and mainland China. US officials added that the US will temporarily deploy MQ-9 Reaper drones to Japan for maritime surveillance of the East China Sea, and will also establish a bilateral group to analyze and share information.

The announcement comes less than a month after Japan released a new national defense plan that signals the country’s largest military build-up since World War II, doubling defense spending and turning to its pacifist constitution in the face of growing threats from regional rivals, including China.

China has increased its naval and air forces near Japan as it claims the Senkaku Islands, a chain of uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea, as its territory.

At the end of December, Japan said that Chinese state vessels had been seen in the contiguous area around the Senkakus, known as the Diaoyus in China, for 334 days in 2022, the most since in 2012 when Tokyo acquired some of the islands from a private Japanese landowner. NHK broadcaster reported. From December 22 to 25, Chinese government vessels spent nearly 73 consecutive hours in Japanese waters off the islands, the longest such attack since 2012, the report said. NHK.

China has also increased military pressure on Taiwan, the self-governing island, which Japanese defense leaders say is vital to Japan’s own security. In August, Beijing joined that pressure by firing five missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone near Taiwan in response to a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. US Congress at the time in Taipei.

Before the announcement of increased cooperation between the United States and Japan was even made public, Chinese government officials commented on Japanese media reports.

“US-Japan military cooperation should not harm the interests of third parties or harm the peace and stability of the region,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. China, during a regular press conference on Tuesday in Beijing.

A State Department official explained that the war in Ukraine and the strengthening of China-Russia relations have prompted the United States and Japan to enter into a series of new agreements that have been under consideration for a long time.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken things up a bit,” the official said. “The relationship between Putin and Xi Jinping that we saw in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, that kind of show, wait a minute, the Russians and the Chinese are working in new ways. We are facing new challenges.”

And it’s not just the US – Japan and Britain also announced on Wednesday that the two countries will sign a “historic defense agreement” that will allow them to deploy forces in their respective countries.

The Reciprocal Access Agreement will allow the two powers to organize military exercises and deployments on a larger and more complex scale, making it “the most important defense agreement between the two countries in in more than a hundred,” said a statement on Wednesday from Downing Street. .

This agreement still needs to be approved by each House before it becomes effective. It will be put before the Diet of Japan and the UK Parliament next week, according to the statement.


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