Japan and the United States should deepen their security cooperation to maintain deterrence even in the current pandemic crisis.
Cases of infection with the new coronavirus have been found on several U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, reportedly creating a situation in which members of the navy cannot carry out their duties. This may be due to the fact that naval vessels are enclosed and crowded. Last month, the U.S. military decided to stop moving units overseas for 60 days.
As the infections have spread to U.S. forces based in Japan, the commander has declared a public health emergency. The commander has called for taking thorough preventive measures at the U.S. Yokosuka base and other locations.
Japan’s bilateral defense exchanges with the United States and Australia, as well as international security-related meetings, have been canceled one after another. This is an alarming situation.
Prospects for an end to the epidemic are not yet in sight. Many people are concerned that the U.S. military’s ability to respond to conflicts and other matters could decline as its operations have been disrupted.
The security environment in the Asia-Pacific region remains severe.
North Korea launched projectiles four times last month. They included a new type of ballistic missile that flew on an irregular trajectory. Pyongyang is believed to have improved its capability for operational deployment.
The Chinese military is intensifying its provocations. A Chinese Navy missile destroyer and supply ships conducted their first exercise off Hawaii in February.
The move appears to be intended to expand the scope of China’s activities in the Pacific.
Around the same time, Chinese bombers passed between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island. The aim of trying to intimidate Japan is obvious.
China’s hegemonic behavior, aimed at becoming a maritime power, cannot be overlooked.
It is crucial to try to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance and maintain stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
As infection cases increase in Japan, the Self-Defense Forces are responding to the situation. Based on disaster dispatch provisions, the SDF has engaged in operations such as quarantine at airports, transport of infected people and support for people’s daily lives.
It is significant that the SDF uses its mobility to deal with the infectious disease. Nevertheless, its original role of defense should not be neglected.
Strengthening the system to intercept North Korean missiles is essential. With China’s maritime advances in mind, Japan is urged to make every possible effort to defend remote islands.
In April, the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy conducted joint exercises in waters off Southeast Asia. It is said that their members stopped visiting each other’s vessels and tried to communicate by radio to prevent the spread of the virus. They should continue to contrive ways to improve their skills through training.
Four years have passed since the security-related laws were enacted, and cooperation between Japanese and U.S. units has deepened. It is important to steadily implement missions, such as the SDF protection of U.S. vessels during exercises and its refueling of U.S. warships, in order to improve joint response capabilities.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on April 11, 2020.