[Analytics] Trump and Abe upgrade US-Japan relationship into “global military alliance”

US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump and Abe‘s wife Akie Abe, onboard the Japanese destroyer JS Kaga in Yokosuka, Japan, on May 28, 2019. (AP). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Standing side by side aboard the JS Kaga, which will serve as Japan’s first carrier since World War II, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump declared to their domestic and international audiences that the Japan-US relationship had been upgraded to a “global military alliance.” Cho Ki-weon specially for the Hankyoreh.

The two leaders’ confirmation of a plan for the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) to operate alongside the US military in a wide arena, ranging from the West Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean, and the specific ways of achieving that marked the effective end of Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented military policy (the principle that military force can only be used for defending Japan), which has been guarded by Japan’s so-called “peace constitution” for more than seven decades.

On the morning of May 28, Abe was on the deck of the JS Kaga, which was docked at Yokosuka Base in Kanagawa Prefecture, to greet Trump, who had flown there on his official helicopter, Marine One. Yokosuka Base is the home base of Escort Flotilla 1 of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the US 7th Fleet.

“This is the first time in history that the leaders of Japan and the US have reviewed the Japan Self-Defense Force and the US military together. Under my leadership and the leadership of President Trump, the Japan-US alliance has become stronger than ever before,” Abe said, while standing in front of lines of JSDF personnel.

Abe said that the Japan-US alliance “must make the Indo-Pacific a free and open place and must become the cornerstone for regional peace and prosperity.” One of the ways to achieve that, Abe said, is “retrofitting this ship [the JS Kaga] and outfitting it with STOVL [short takeoff and vertical landing] aircraft so that it can contribute even more to the peace and stability of the country and the region.
In the National Defense Program Guidelines, released in December 2018, the Japanese government outlined its plans to retrofit the JS Kaga and the JS Izumo, which are both Izumo-class destroyers, to be used as aircraft carriers that can carry the F-38, a stealth fighter capable of vertical landing.

“The JS Kaga will help our nations defend against a range of complex threats in the region and far beyond,” Trump said, giving his seal of approval for the JSDF’s expanded role.

In April 2015, Japan and the US revised their defense cooperation guidelines to upgrade their relationship from a “regional alliance” to a “global alliance.” That led to this declaration, which confirms the plan for the JSDF’s carriers to work with the US military in the Indo-Pacific region.

By Cho Ki-weon, Tokyo correspondent

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