- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

HONOLULU — U.S. and Japanese military officers and defense officials will be sitting down in Washington, in Tokyo and at U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii over the coming months to determine ways to put muscle behind the swiftly maturing alliance between the United States and Japan.

If all goes well, U.S. and Japanese defense officials say, those efforts will produce a joint declaration by President Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi this fall that will reflect the most fundamental and far-reaching revision of the alliance since the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty was rewritten in 1960.

The critical feature: The United States and Japan will transform their security bond from one of senior partner/junior partner to one of near equals in policy and strategy, even if the military power of the United States overshadows that of Japan.

?The joint declaration at the end of this process will define a new alliance,? said a retired senior Japanese officer who consults on these issues. An American officer said that ?a major sea change is under way in our relationship.?

The United States and Japan appear to be moving closer in response to rising anti-Japanese sentiments in China, South Korea and North Korea that Japanese commentators say have caused alarm in their nation.

The Japanese and U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified while discussions are under way, said the vital issues to be resolved include:

• Deciding which forces will be responsible for what roles and missions.

• Expanding combined operations and training, especially between the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. The navies and air forces, which already coordinate many operations, would expand their cooperation.

• Sharing intelligence as the Japanese, in particular, strengthen their ability to collect and analyze information.

• Revising war plans, a touchy subject that officials are reluctant to discuss in public. An American officer said, however: ?We continually review our bilateral coordination mechanisms and processes.?

• Moving a U.S. Army corps headquarters to Japan from the United States to facilitate combined planning, training and operations with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

• Researching and building a combined ballistic missile defense that would aim first at the missile threat from North Korea, which fired a missile over Japan in 1998, and then at the longer-range threat from China.

All of that is part of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s plan for a rigorous overhaul of the U.S. military posture in Asia. The plan also calls for dismantling the many-layered command structure in South Korea, consolidating control under a streamlined U.S. headquarters in Japan, reducing the number of U.S. forces in South Korea, and giving those who remain there a regional rather than a local mission.

When U.S. and Japanese officials began discussing the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, the Americans focused on the command element while the Japanese sought to reduce the friction caused by U.S. bases located next to Japanese neighborhoods. Before the negotiations went far, a senior U.S. officer said, the two sides agreed they needed a basic reassessment of the alliance.

In Japan, Mr. Koizumi formed a commission on security led by a prominent business executive, Hiroshi Araki of Tokyo Electric Power Co. The commission recommended in October that Japan forge an ?integrated security strategy? through ?strategic consultations? with the United States.

In December, Mr. Koizumi’s government published a new defense guideline and a plan to expand Japan’s defenses over the next five years. ?Japan’s defense forces are the ultimate guarantee of its national security,? the guideline stated.

It added that Japan should ?engage in strategic dialogue? with the United States to include role-sharing, intelligence exchange, cooperative operations, exchanges of technology and ?efforts to make the stationing of U.S. forces in Japan smoother.?

Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, Japanese Defense Minister Yoshinori Ono, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mr. Rumsfeld subsequently met in Washington to approve ?common strategic objectives? that called for U.S. and Japanese forces to ?maintain the capability to address contingencies affecting the United States and Japan.?

Mr. Machimura told reporters the strategic dialogue has three stages: the review of strategic objectives, which has just concluded; an examination of Japanese and U.S. missions and capabilities, which has begun; and a study of issues concerning U.S. bases in Japan.

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