Japan seeks stronger military ties with US, other partners

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Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during an interview with foreign media members ahead of an official visit to the United States at the Prime Minister’s official residence on April 5 in Tokyo. (AP)

TOKYO, April 6, (AP): Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday he wants to strengthen military and weapons development cooperation with the United States as well as with other countries such as the Philippines, as he prepares for a visit to the US next week to meet with President Joe Biden.
“Defense industry cooperation between Japan and the United States, as well as with like-minded countries, are extremely important,” Kishida said in an interview Friday with selected foreign media, including The Associated Press, at the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Within the Japan-US alliance, I do hope to steadily improve deterrence and response capability,” he said.
Kishida said Japan hopes to promote security cooperation in areas including defense equipment and technology. “By building multi-layered networks of cooperation, we can further expand and strengthen our deterrence capability,” he said.
During his April 8-14 trip to the US, Kishida will hold talks with Biden at the White House on Wednesday, followed by a trilateral summit with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. the next day.
Kishida is the first Japanese leader to visit Washington as a state guest since then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2015, who revised the interpretation of Japan’s pacifist Constitution to allow its self-defense-only principle to also cover its ally, the United States.
Japanese officials hope to showcase a rock-solid Japan-US alliance in a number of areas, but a deepening of security and defense ties and an expansion of arms co-development are expected to top the agenda for Kishida’s visit.
Since adopting a more expansive national security strategy in 2022, Kishida’s government has taken bold steps to accelerate the country’s military buildup and hopes to show it’s willing and capable of elevating its security cooperation with the United States. Kishida has pledged to double defense spending and boost deterrence against an increasingly assertive China, which Japan considers a security threat.
Japan, working to acquire what it calls a “counterstrike” capability, has purchased 400 U.S. Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles. After prohibiting almost all weapons exports, it has relaxed export guidelines twice in recent months, allowing the sale of lethal weapons to countries from which they were licensed and overseas sales of a fighter jet it’s co-developing with the U.K. and Italy. The changes have also allowed Japan to ship Japanese-made PAC-3 missiles to the United States to help replace those contributed by Washington to Ukraine.

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