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Editorial: Deepen Japan-U.S. alliance in multifaceted manner

The Japanese and U.S. governments agreed to strengthen defense cooperation in space and cyberspace at the Security Consultative Committee (“2+2”) meeting between foreign and defense ministers held in Washington. It is significant for the two countries to increase the deterrent of the alliance against new threats. Japan needs to swiftly clarify the legal framework for increasing capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces and cooperating with the U.S.


At the latest meeting, the representatives confirmed that in the event of major cyberattacks against Japan’s critical infrastructure such as the SDF facilities and nuclear plants, the U.S. will defend Japan.


Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty obligates the U.S. to defend Japan in the event of armed attacks against the country from land, sea and air; however, it has left unclarified whether Article 5 would apply to cyberattacks. The joint document released this time clearly states, “In certain cases a cyberattack will be considered an armed attack against Japan under Article 5.” This will contribute to strengthening deterrence.


The two countries held a “2+2” meeting for the first time since August in 2017. Japan revised the National Defense Program Guidelines at the end of 2018, launching the concept of “multidimensional joint defense.” The new guidelines are mainly aimed at increasing the capability to response to attacks in space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum. This is premised on close cooperation with the U.S.


In recent years, China and Russia have been actively increasing their offensive capabilities in cyberspace and space. The situation requires Japan to develop new response capabilities, including preparations for cyberattacks at the national level, space surveillance, and the development of radar and satellite systems.


A legal framework for defense cooperation between Japan and the U.S. in the event of major cyberattacks against the two countries is also an important point.


The security legislation came into force in March 2016. This allows Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense if there is a clear danger that threatens Japan’s survival and could fundamentally overturn the people’s right to life and liberty. To what extent could Japan cooperate with the U.S. in the event of attacks against it in space and cyberspace? Many legally murky areas remain. 


During the latest 2+2 meeting, bearing China’s hegemonic maritime advancement in mind, the representatives confirmed once again the creation of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” With respect to North Korea, the two countries will firmly maintain the policy of “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.”


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit the U.S. on April 26 and 27 for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. Both Japan and the U.S. are jointly responsible for maintaining the stability and peace of the international community. The two leaders should make the summit an opportunity to confirm the importance of international cooperation including the UK, France, Germany and Australia in addition to Japan and the U.S.

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