Defense Minister Taro Kono and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper agreed during a recent meeting to cooperate on building a new missile defense system and expressed concern over China’s maritime advance.
The defense chiefs plan to work together to replace the Aegis Ashore land-based interception system.
At their meeting in Guam on Saturday, Kono explained the circumstances behind the decision to abandon the deployment of Aegis Ashore, as well as the Japanese government’s consideration of alternative measures.
The meeting, which lasted around two hours, was the first in about seven months. Both agreed that North Korea’s ballistic missile launches pose a serious challenge to the international community.
When discussing the security environment around Japan, both had China in mind as they confirmed their policy of opposing “unilateral changes to the status quo by force.”
Regarding the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, where Chinese government ships have been intruding into Japanese territorial waters, Esper stressed that the United States opposes any unilateral act that undermines Japan’s administration of the isles.
Esper again confirmed his recognition that Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which stipulates U.S. defense obligations to Japan, will be applied in such situations.
They also agreed that Japan and the United States would work with the international community to handle the situation in the South China Sea, where tensions have been rising due to such developments as China launching four medium-range ballistic missiles.
“It is significant that Japan and the United States have shown the international community our strong partnership,” Kono said at a press conference streamed over the internet after the meeting.
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