The Daily Manila Shimbun


Japan faces tech, budget limits on expanding role as US ally

August 25, 2017

WASHINGTON- Japan is likely to see technological and budgetary limits on working to expand its role in the security alliance with the United States amid growing threats from North Korea. Japan appears to be accelerating work to beef up its defense capabilities, in line with the wishes of US President Donald Trump.

During telephone talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 31, Trump showed frustration with Japan's defense-only security policy, which makes the Asian ally unable to make military contributions to stability in East Asia, according to diplomatic sources.

Japan expressed its intention to boost its role in the bilateral alliance, in a joint statement issued after "two-plus-two" security talks in Washington on Aug. 17. The meeting brought together Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, and US State Secretary Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

"Japan intends to expand its role in the alliance and augment its defense capabilities, with an eye on the next planning period for its Mid-Term Defense Program," the statement said.

The ministers instructed staff to "explore new and expanded activities in various areas," following the entry into force of Japan's new security legislation last year, it also said.

During the meeting, the Japanese ministers notified their US counterparts of plans to introduce the Aegis Ashore missile defense system developed by the United States, after North Korea's threat to fire intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japan toward the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Japan's current missile defense comprises Standard Missile-3, or SM-3, interceptors mounted on Aegis-equipped destroyers and Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3, ground-to-air guided missiles.

But the Maritime Self-Defense Force has only four Aegis destroyers available for defense against ballistic missiles at the moment, while each PAC-3 battery can only cover a radius of tens of kilometers.

Just two units of the Aegis Ashore system, meanwhile, are seen capable of covering the whole of Japan. Jiji Press