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U.S. to Announce Major Shakeup in Military Ties with Japan as China Threat Looms

by Micaela Burrow


The U.S. and Japan will announce a historic upgrade to security ties, including a collaborative military command, next month as the two former adversaries move closer together in determination to counter China, according to media reports published Monday.

Chief among the changes under consideration involves sending a four-star general, the highest peacetime rank, to head U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ) and jointly oversee a military command with Japan for planning and exercises, Reuters reported, citing two sources familiar with the discussions. Tokyo also hopes to establish a new Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) headquarters, whose head will serve as the Japanese counterpart to the American four-star, by March of 2025, the sources said.

President Joe Biden will announce the move when he hosts Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House on April 10, according to the Financial Times, citing five sources familiar with the planning.


“We are in discussion about how our planned joint command can strengthen cooperation with the U.S. and South Korea,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a media briefing Monday, Reuters reported. But, the agenda for the upcoming summit has not been confirmed, he added.

U.S. forces from different military branches stationed in Japan are under the command of a three-star military leader who does not have any control over Japanese forces, according to Reuters. A four-star commander would be equal in rank to their possible future counterpart in the Japanese SDF and lay the foundation for a potential future joint command structure.

The allies are seeking to boost security ties as Japan becomes an increasingly important partner to the U.S. in its efforts to prevent China from instigating a war in the Pacific or, if necessary, to respond in a timely and seamless manner to any military contingency that might arise.

Japan is also establishing a Joint Operations Command to better integrate the operations of various SDF branches, according to the FT.

Up until now, however, Japan has primarily coordinated with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command headquartered in Hawaii, which is 19 hours behind Tokyo and thousands of miles away, according to the FT. Tokyo has urged the U.S. to give the head of USFJ more operational authority and flexibility, which would allow for better coordination with Japanese forces.

“It sends a strong strategic signal to China and North Korea and it’s meaningful from the point of view of deterrence to say that the US will strengthen the command structure in Japan,” Ryoichi Oriki, former head of Japan’s SDF joint staff, told the FT.

Pentagon leaders have not made a decision on the restructuring, first proposed by Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. John Aquilino, sources familiar told the FT. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin still wants to give the incoming INDOPACOM commander, Adm. Samuel Paparo, a chance to weigh in.

The National Security Council did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. The Pentagon declined to speak on the matter.

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Micaela Burrow is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Navy Ships” by Official U.S. Navy Page.



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