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NATO Heats Up the Asia-Pacific Theater as Well

March 31, 2024 (EIRNS)—Japan and the United States are set to strengthen their security partnership with Britain, Australia and the Philippines to counter China’s assertive military posture, Japan government sources said, reported Japan Today website on March 30. Under the closer security ties, the five countries will increase joint drills in the Indo-Pacific region and promote cooperation on defensive technologies, the sources said. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will be coming to Washington for a summit with President Joe Biden on April 10, where they’re expected to agree on the new partnership.

In recent years, Britain has strengthened its engagement in the Indo-Pacific region and plans to deploy a carrier strike group to the area in 2025. Japan, the United States and Britain are also expected to discuss holding joint drills near the Sea of Japan. Regarding Australia, Japan and the United States are slated to discuss plans to improve interoperability and the smooth transfer of defensive technologies during the bilateral meeting. Kishida and Biden may also discuss Japan’s collaboration with the AUKUS security partnership, including those on antisubmarine warfare and robots, during the summit.

Japan took three steps last week reflective of its shift to a militarist policy. First, the cabinet approved on March 26 the export of the new fighter jets it is developing with the U.K. and Italy, opening the door for Japan to export lethal weapons it co-manufactures to other countries for the first time, China’s Global Times reported. On March 27, Kyodo News reported a five-year plan to upgrade 5 airports and 11 ports for use by the country’s defense forces and coast guard in case of military emergencies, to start in April of the next fiscal year. And on March 28, the Japanese parliament approved a fiscal year 2024 budget which includes a 16.7% year-on-year increase in the country’s defense spending, to a record high ¥7.95 trillion ($52.53 billion).

Asked about the last move, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian responded Friday, March 29, that “given Japan’s not-too-distant history of militarist aggression, Japan’s military and security moves are closely watched by its Asian neighbors and the international community.” The multiple steps taken on military policy in recent years “call into question Japan’s commitment to the exclusively defense-oriented policy and the path to peaceful development.” He suggested Japan “deeply reflect on its history of aggression, commit itself to the path of peaceful development, and avoid further losing the trust of its Asian neighbors and beyond.”