04
October 2023
Past Event
Japanese Security in an Uncertain Indo-Pacific

Attendance by invitation only.

 

Inquiries: mdewitt@hudson.org

Japanese Security in an Uncertain Indo-Pacific

Past Event
Invite Only
October 04, 2023
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force paratroopers assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade move to follow-on locations after landing at JGSDF East Fuji Maneuver Area, Japan, Jan. 31, 2023, (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)
Caption
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force paratroopers assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade move to follow-on locations after landing at JGSDF East Fuji Maneuver Area on January 31, 2023. (US Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)
04
October 2023
Past Event

Attendance by invitation only.

 

Inquiries: mdewitt@hudson.org

Speakers:
Minister of Defense, Japan
Minoru Kihara

Minister of Defense, Japan

kenneth-weinstein
Kenneth R. Weinstein

Japan Chair

Japan faces significant security challenges in the Indo-Pacific, from economic coercion and weaponized propaganda to territorial intrusions and rising nuclear threats. At the same time, Japan is demonstrating resolve in critical areas. Tokyo has rolled out robust plans for defense transformation, supported Ukraine against Russian aggression, and significantly improved relations with the Republic of Korea.

Hudson’s Japan Chair will host Japanese Minister of Defense Minoru Kihara to discuss these challenges and opportunities as well as Japan’s alliance with the United States. Following the minister’s remarks, Japan Chair Kenneth R. Weinstein will moderate a question and answer session.

Key Takeaways

1. Minister Kihara laid out the importance of a multifaceted approach to promote Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP).

One necessary component to the FOIP strategy is security. Minister Kihara noted that security provides “a quicker path to a free and open Indo-Pacific” and prevents “unilateral changes to the status quo.” Military cooperation between the US and Japan, which Kihara deemed historic, demonstrates “a posture of contributing to peace and stability in the region.” Japan’s reinforced defense capabilities, moreover, will play a growing role as Japan implements its Defense Buildup Plan over the next five years. 

But Washington needs to do far more in the economic arena, just as Tokyo is beginning to do far more in the defense arena. Security cooperation is insufficient against Chinese efforts to dominate “ports, railroads, roads, airports . . . electric power, water resources, and public infrastructure,” the minister noted. By focusing solely on deterrence in the Taiwan Strait, many in Washington have underestimated the need for deeper multilateral engagement in the Indo-Pacific to meet the challenge of China’s predatory economic practices.

Washington-Tokyo cooperation should extend beyond bilateral efforts to include the deeply enriched multilateralism of the past few years—whether through the Quad, Japan-Australia-US cooperation, Japan-US-South Korea efforts, or American cooperation with the Philippines. Trade, development, and private sector investment are crucial strategic tools that Tokyo uses to develop relations of trust in the Indo-Pacific. 

— Japan Chair Kenneth R. Weinstein

2. Minister Kihara highlighted cooperation on maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) as an important issue. 

Expanding US-Japan MRO cooperation would be invaluable, and some of this work has already begun. In June, Japanese engineering firm IHI agreed to repair American F-35 fighters based in Japan. Currently, US Navy ships can be repaired at their bases in Japan, Yokosuka and Sasebo. But larger projects require USN ships to return to the American mainland.

Conducting MRO at Japanese commercial shipyards—many of which already service Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels—would immediately help to relieve the Navy’s service backlog and will ensure that more US ships are available in the event of an Indo-Pacific contingency.

It would also have long-term benefits. These benefits include:

  • Mitigating existing US and allied shortfalls in human and infrastructural resources.
  • Encouraging shared standards and improving interoperability and effectiveness.
  • Undercutting the false dichotomy of supporting Ukraine or supporting Taiwan.
  • Promoting future industrial and infrastructural cooperation in other areas, such as space and crucial emerging technologies.

— Japan Chair Fellow William Chou

3. Minister Kihara discussed his role in Japan’s strategy development and implementation process.

As a student of history, it was interesting to hear how Minister Kihara led the process of debating and proposing new security strategies in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s National Security Group. The group pushed the Japanese government to be ambitious and to transform the limited postwar Japanese defense policy so that it is more realistic and reflects the changing international order and the uncertain security environment in the Indo-Pacific.

Now, as minister of defense, Kihara is charged with carrying out the energetic security plans that he had pushed for. As the minister noted, “I threw a really hard fastball at the government. But now, because I’m defense minister, I have to catch the very fast ball that I threw myself.”

— Japan Chair Fellow Komei Isozaki

4. Minister Kihara explained Japan’s decision to change its order of US-made cruise missiles while it develops its own counterstrike capability. 

To expedite acquisition, Japan changed its order of 400 Block V Maritime Strike Tomahawk cruise missiles to just 200 Block V missiles, along with 200 slightly older Block IV Tomahawks. The older missiles’ attack and cost efficiency against moving targets like ships or hardened targets like airstrips is inferior to that of bombers with Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). But the decision to expedite delivery demonstrates Tokyo’s resolve and sense of urgency about the rapidly deteriorating security environment surrounding Japan.

If war breaks out, Japan will not have time to wait for US aircraft to fly in from the Pacific or the American mainland. Japan needs the means to counterstrike not only maritime targets but also ground targets in the early stages of a conflict to protect the US operational bases in the Western Pacific. The greater the number of these munitions—and the sooner Japan can deploy them—the better.

— Japan Chair Fellow Masashi Murano

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