TOKYO (AP) — The U.S. Navy’s top commander in the Pacific and Japan’s defense minister said Friday that close cooperation between their navies in the region amid escalating tensions between China, North Korea and Russia more important than ever.
Defense Secretary Nobuo Kishi told U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Sam Paparo that the U.S. Navy’s presence in the region is essential to maintaining and strengthening a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, which is owned by the two allies The vision of a rules-based framework was touted as countering the rise of China.
Kishi noted that the regional security environment has deteriorated further since Paparo took office last year, and said cooperation between the Japanese and U.S. navies “will only increase.”
Paparo agreed that security challenges in the Pacific were increasing, adding that the “close coordination and integration” between the two navies “has surpassed and surpassed the actions of our potential adversaries.” Paparo said that the Japan-US alliance is the cornerstone of security in the Pacific region.
After a decade of steady growth in military spending, Prime Minister Fumio Kishi has pledged to further strengthen Japan’s military capabilities and spending over the next five years, while his government is working to revise its national security strategy.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense reported that joint naval activity by Chinese and Russian warships off the coast of Japan is increasing. Japanese authorities say Chinese coast guard ships have repeatedly infiltrated territorial waters around the Japanese-controlled East China Sea near the Senkaku Islands, which Beijing also claims and calls the Diaoyu Islands.
North Korea, which is advancing its missile and nuclear development, has tested 17 missiles this year, and there is growing speculation that it is preparing for another nuclear test explosion.
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.