Three members of the House Committee on Armed Services met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and various Japanese military and foreign affairs officials in Tokyo on June 1. The US delegation included Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry of Texas, Representatives Bradley Byrne of Alabama and Madeleine Bordallo of Guam. Leaders of the two countries discussed concerns over security issues in the Asia Pacific following North Korea’s third missile test in recent weeks. Chairman Thornberry expressed hopes that the meeting will reaffirm the US-Japan alliance.
The US-Japan military alliance began in 1951 with the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty. Since then, the two countries have signed numerous treaties to strengthen the partnership and prepare for modern security threats. In 2015, the two countries signed the Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation, which enhances bilateral cooperation in addressing non-traditional security threats such as space, cyber, and global peacekeeping operations.
Additionally, the US and Japanese militaries participate in a variety of joint military exercises every year, including the biannual Joint Disaster Response Exercise, Keen Sword, and annual Yama Sakura. The US-Japan military alliance is viewed positively by citizens of both countries – more than 80% of US and Japanese citizens see the partnership as beneficial.
Japan was the top buyer of US defense equipment in 2014, purchasing $567 million in defense products. Japanese defense exports may increase with the lifting of the weapons embargo in 2014 and the signing of the Reciprocal Defense Procurement pact in 2016, which exempts Japanese defense products from some US import provisions. Currently, Japanese companies sell some high-tech military components to the United States, including missile-tracking sensors used in ballistic missile defense systems. Japanese firms are also important to the civilian aircraft industry, and supply parts for American planes such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner plane.
The meeting with Abe is part of a four-nation visit by the Armed Services Committee representatives to strengthen Indo-Asia-Pacific alliances and partnerships. The delegation met with top South Korean military and government officials in Seoul on May 30 to express gratitude for President Moon Jae-in’s commitment to increasing Korean defense spending.
Genna Liu is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a government and economics student at Dartmouth College.