Japan, US to create new defense body for disputed islands
WASHINGTON - Japan and the United States plan to create a permanent consultative body to coordinate the operations of the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military in the face of China's highhanded actions over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, Japanese and U.S. government sources said.
The envisaged body is expected to help Japan and the United States deal quickly with situations in and around the islands that cannot be clearly identified as armed attacks, the sources said.
Establishment of the consultative body will be included in revisions to the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation scheduled for the end of the year.
Revised in 1997, the current guidelines stipulate that Japan and the United States will closely coordinate joint action through a consultative body in the event of an emergency involving Japan or situations in surrounding areas that could develop into armed attacks on the country if no measures are taken.
Based on this, Tokyo and Washington agreed in 2000 to create a director-level joint coordination group comprising bureaucrats and military officers from both sides to decide on policies concerning Japan's provision of additional facilities to the U.S. military and logistical support, as well as a Japan-U.S. joint coordination office to exchange information and coordinate operations of the SDF and U.S. forces. But their establishment has not yet been made permanent.
During their talks to review the current guidelines, foreign and defense officials from both sides stated that there is a need to create a permanent coordination body when they went over desktop military exercises and exchanged opinions on how quasi-military attacks on Japan should be handled.
Experts predict that an attempt by China to seize the Senkakus would very likely begin with the landing of armed personnel disguised as fishermen. The prediction has prompted the Japanese side to demand enhancement of the Japan-U.S. partnership to deal with such ambiguous situations. Meanwhile, the U.S. side also expects the permanent consultative body's establishment to aid in the coordination of operations with Japan in the event of a major disaster or if tensions begin to escalate on the Korean Peninsula.
However, Japan once declined a U.S. proposal to create the body in 2006 when North Korea test-launched seven missiles, including a long-range ballistic missile, due to fears the move might be seen by Pyongyang as a provocation.
In October last year, however, the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee comprising foreign and defense ministers of the two countries, also known as two-plus-two, agreed in its joint statement on the review of the defense guidelines to make the consultation and coordination framework between them flexible, responsive and integrated.