In a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Donald Trump reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the security and defense of Japan.

President Trump has been critical in the past of the expense associated with maintaining military forces in Japan as well as South Korea, but both the president and his Defense Secretary, James Mattis, have been working feverishly in recent weeks to emphasize America’s willingness to maintain our alliances with the Asian nations.

“It is important that both Japan and the United States continue to invest very heavily in the alliance to build up our defense and our defensive capabilities, which, under our mutual leadership, will become stronger and stronger,” Trump said.

America’s relationships with allies like Japan and South Korea would seem to have grown in importance to the Trump administration since he took office.  While he was once quite critical of maintaining American military forces stationed in each of their nations while on the campaign trail, on Friday, Trump thanked Prime Minister Abe for “hosting our armed forces.”  This change of approach is likely the result of an increased Chinese military presence in the region, as well as China’s aggressive behavior over the past year or so.

After the President and Prime Minister met, the White House released a joint statement declaring the alliance between Japan and the United States to be a “cornerstone” of peace in the region.

“The unshakable U.S.-Japan Alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the Asia-Pacific region.  The U.S. commitment to defend Japan through the full range of U.S. military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional, is unwavering,” the statement read.

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The statement went on to indicate that both the United States and Japan will likely be increasing their military presence and capabilities in Asia.

“Amid an increasingly difficult security environment in the Asia-Pacific region, the United States will strengthen its presence in the region, and Japan will assume larger roles and responsibilities in the alliance.”

Without directly addressing China by name, the joint statement had strong words that would seem to be in reference to China’s militarization of the South China Sea, including the development of man-made islands that China has been arming with weapon systems to secure a larger swath of the waterway that sees trillions of dollars of trade every year and is said to house large oil and natural gas deposits.

“The United States and Japan oppose any attempt to assert maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force.  The United States and Japan also call on countries concerned to avoid actions that would escalate tensions in the South China Sea, including the militarization of outposts, and to act in accordance with international law.”

Despite tensions between Trump and China, he did agree to honor the traditional “One China” policy on Thursday night during a phone call with China’s leader Xi Jinping, indicating that although the president intends to strengthen relationships with our Asian allies, he may be seeking a calmer level of discourse with our potential adversaries as well.

 

Image courtesy of Getty Images