Defense officials today welcomed an announcement by the Japanese government that it would seek a change to the policy regarding the country’s collective self-defense.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that the change will enable the Japan Self-Defense Forces to engage in a wider range of operations and that it will strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance. Japan’s post World War II pacifist constitution had placed strict limits on its military, allowing it to act only in self-defense or in limited missions abroad.
“There’s a lot of work left to do inside the Japanese government on this … policy change that they’re seeking,” Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today during a news briefing at the Pentagon. The Japanese legislature still must vote to confirm the change, he noted.
“But we certainly see it as an encouraging sign for the alliance moving forward,” the admiral added. “And I think we have every expectation, certainly the secretary does, that the U.S.-Japan alliance will remain just as strong and just as vibrant, if not stronger.”
Hagel said in his statement that he looks forward to discussing the decision when he meets with his Japanese counterpart, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, in Washington next week.
The decision by Japan’s Cabinet to pursue collective self-defense is “encouraging” and will help inform the revision of U.S.-Japan defense guidelines, Kirby said.
“There’s no reason from our perspective to believe or to worry that it will make tensions worse,” he noted in response to a reporter’s question. “Quite the contrary, we think it will help with security and stability in the region.”
Kirby added that he believes the policy change will have a helpful effect on the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. The alliance with Japan already is one of the strongest that the United States has, he said.
“It will just simply make our alliance stronger,” the admiral said. “And what makes the alliance with Japan stronger by design and by default helps make the Asia-Pacific rebalance all the more viable.”