U.S. and Japan to Shift Joint Defense Posture

January 11, 2023

Top security officials from the U.S. and Japan were expected to agree to changes in their nations’ joint defense posture this week to confront rising threats from North Korea and increasing tensions arising from China.

Specifically, the allied nations were aiming toward a shift in marine units on the Japanese island of Okinawa. 

U.S. officials said Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin were set to meet Wednesday with their Japanese counterparts to adjust—but not increase—U.S. troop presence on the island to create “a modernized alliance that will tackle 21st century challenges in the Indo-Pacific and around the world,” according to Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder. 

Ryder did not provide details of the deal. However, it would reportedly involve the 12th Marine Regiment currently on Okinawa transforming into a smaller, more rapidly mobile unit called the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment. The new regiment was expected to be better able and equipped to fight an adversary and defend the U.S. and its allies in the region. 

Ryder added, “China certainly will be a topic of discussion with our Japanese allies during the consultative meetings this week.”

The meetings were scheduled as China renewed threats on Wednesday against Taiwan, warning that foreign leaders who interacted with the sovereign island, just 100 miles off China’s coast, were “playing with fire.”

North Korea, meanwhile, spent 2022 conducting an unprecedented number of nuclear-capable missile tests, and in December Pyongyang said it had fired a test satellite in a final stage for its first spy satellite.

On Wednesday, Japan also signed a defense deal strengthening military ties with the UK that could eventually see troops deployed to each others’ countries.

Japan holds the presidency of the G-7 economic powers this year. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is currently on a weeklong trip to visit allies including Italy, France, Canada and the United States. He is set to meet President Biden at the White House on Friday.

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