Japan decided to expand support for US troops when the two countries held high-level talks on Friday on tensions with China and North Korea.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the two countries had signed a five-year extension of a support package provided by Japan to house some 50,000 US troops on its soil.
The new agreement “will invest greater resources in deepening our military readiness and interoperability,” Blinken said at the opening of four-way virtual talks between the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers.
Tokyo pays for the presence of US troops in the country. The previous agreement was due to expire in March 2021, but was extended for another year in the event of a change of government in Washington.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who recently ended his self-isolation after contracting COVID-19 with mild symptoms, said the two countries developed roles and missions that reflected Japan’s growing ability to contribute to regional peace and stability.
Japan renounced its right to war after World War II and has since developed a close alliance with Washington, which is bound by a treaty to defend the world’s third-largest economy.
According to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the latest five-year package will be worth $1.8 billion per fiscal year, an increase of about five percent.
The package was agreed amid rising tensions with China, which has increasingly shown its aggressiveness towards Taiwan. Taiwan has close ties to Washington and Tokyo but Beijing regards it as a province awaiting reunification.
“Beijing’s provocative actions continue to increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait and in the East and South China Seas,” Blinken said.
Blinken also described North Korea’s missile program as a “continued threat” after Pyongyang again tested its ballistic missiles recently.
The joint statement issued after the talks revealed that the two countries were deeply concerned about human rights violations in the Xinjiang and Hong Kong regions, and called for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. [ab/lt]