The United States and Japan have revitalized their commitment to the alliance as leaders Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Mike Gilday and Japan Chief of Staff Joint Staff Gen. Koji Yamazaki met at the Pentagon last week.

Both sides tackled maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region, deterrence to adversaries, and amplifying budget priorities and efforts to ensure the area remains “free and open.”

“The US-Japanese alliance is stronger than ever, and is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region,” said Gilday. “Together, we will ensure security and prosperity, all while increasing multi-lateral cooperation, further information sharing and strategy synchronization, and deterring aggression.”

Maintaining peace and order in the Indo-Pacific waters, the US Navy has been working closely with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), regularly conducting bilateral operations with the revered aircraft carrier USS Ronal Reagan (CVN 76) and other USN-owned ships deployed in the region. The most recent joint exercise between the two navies includes Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), Kakadu, and Pacific Partnership.

CNO and Japan Chief of Staff
CNO Gilday meets with Japan Chief of Staff Yamazaki at the Pentagon on Wednesday, October 19. (US INDOPACOM Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael)

Besides joint military activities, Gilday has also maintained bilateral engagements with JMSDF and its leadership, visiting the JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183) during the Rim of the Pacific 2022 and is slated to fly to Japan next month, among many others.

Last year, Washington and Tokyo reaffirmed their unbreakable alliance, “highlighting cooperation that promotes peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.” Moreover, ensuring to keep defending freedom and democracy, maintaining fair economic and social opportunity, upholding human rights, and supporting each other in times of crisis.

With the continued tensions brewing in the region, the US and Japan aimed to bolster their strength along with South Korea by “forging a forward-leaning, trilateral relationship reflective of their shared values and regional priorities.”

Robust Alliance and Military Modernization

As grim as the war in Ukraine has been for the last eight months, it has somehow awakened the defense and security of the rest of the world, including territories in the Indo-Pacific region. Conflict-ridden Taiwan against China and South Korea against North are just two of the areas treading on thin ice that caused alarms in its surrounding neighbors.

In the recent annual meeting of experts on the US-Japan Alliance in Tokyo, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs, Ely Ratner, described the Russian invasion of Ukraine as implicating a “far-reaching geopolitical, economic, and humanitarian,” and has impacted nations across the globe.

Ratner then commended Japan and the rest of the international community for condemning and imposing sanctions against Russia and sending necessary help to Ukraine.

Moving on to the challenges posed by China, Ratner noted the “overreaction” of Beijing over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August as a “concern,” which threatened to jeopardize peace, order, and stability across the Taiwan Strait and throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

“We are equally clear about our commitment to maintaining a rules-based order and a free and open Indo-Pacific, as well as working together with our like-minded allies and partners to preserve cross-Strait peace and stability,” Ratner said. “We will not be deterred by the PRC’s brazen attempts at coercion, and we will continue to fly, sail and operate — including with our allies and partners — wherever international law allows.”

And, of course, North Korea. Despite sanctions, its nuclear and missile programs have continued to violate international law and seriously threaten Seoul and the entire region. Keeping this in mind, the US and Japan have collaborated to strengthen their treaty alliance and modernize their deterrence capabilities, including enhancing deterrence and response capacities that would ensure a competitive edge against these adversaries. In addition, the two nations also make sure to include “reinforcing extended and integrated deterrence, improving information and cyber security, deepening cooperation in space, cyber and emerging technologies, and coordinating on bilateral planning for contingencies,” Ratner added.

While the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) rapidly moves towards modernizing its military capabilities, Washington and Tokyo are also stepping up their efforts to maintain five steps ahead through its advanced and emerging military technologies, like its sophisticated unmanned systems and counter-hypersonic technologies.

Meanwhile, Australia is also playing a significant role in the alliance in the Indo-Pacific region, just as much as South Korea and Japan do.

“Earlier this year, Japan and Australia signed a reciprocal access agreement, establishing procedures for cooperative activities that will promote increased defense cooperation between the two countries’ defense forces,” the assistant defense secretary said. “Looking ahead, we have agreed to enhance training opportunities [among] the three countries, promote coordinated responses to regional disasters and crises, and deepen cooperation on maritime capacity building and intelligence sharing.”

Furthermore, Ratner highlighted the importance of joint exercises between the allied nation that would enable better communication, expand intelligence sharing, and exchange necessary supplies, to name a few. For the last few months, military exercises between the US, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and many other nations have been conducted together, including land, sea, or air.