The United States and Japanese defense chiefs signed two memorandums of understanding on Jan. 12 to expand cooperation in advanced technologies and defense supply chains as both nations seek to step up their alliance.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada signed the agreements during a meeting at the Pentagon, which Austin described as “a consequential moment” for the U.S.-Japan alliance.

The first memorandum aims to support efforts to improve defense capabilities using advanced technologies, such as high-power microwaves, autonomous systems, and counter-hypersonics, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

They agreed to exchange “reciprocal priority support” for defense-related goods and services under the second memorandum, allowing either side to request expedited handling of industrial resources to resolve supply chain disruptions.

“To support U.S. forces and enhance alliance corporation towards these ends, the United States and Japan must focus our efforts to collaborate on sharpening the competitive edge of the alliance to meet future force requirements and sustained logistics,” Austin said.

Both sides agreed to initiate “intensive discussions” on the roles and missions of the U.S.-Japan alliance, particularly on the operation of counterstrike capabilities under the bilateral cooperation, following Japan’s reinforced defense capabilities, according to Japan’s Ministry of Defense.

Japan approved three key defense documents in December, including the National Security Strategy, which refers to communist China as Japan’s “greatest challenge.” Japan seeks to have the ability to counterattack, a move widely seen as a departure from the nation’s post-war constitution.

Austin expressed full support for Japan’s National Security Strategy. He underscored U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan, including U.S. extended deterrence provided by the full range of conventional and nuclear capabilities.

“The ministers affirmed that the alliance is stalwart in the face of challenges and steadfast in support for shared democratic values and norms that underpin the rules-based international order,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement.

US Willing to Use Nukes to Defend Japan

The talks came a day after a “two-plus-two” security meeting in Washington between the U.S. and Japanese foreign and defense ministers, during which they agreed to optimize U.S. force posture in Japan.

Austin said at the security meeting that the United States would reorganize the 12th Artillery Regiment into the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment, in line with the U.S. Marine Corps’ current restructuring, aimed at improving combat effectiveness in dispersed amphibious regions against major powers.

The new formation would be equipped with advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as anti-ship and anti-transportation systems “relevant to the current and future threat environments,” he said.

Austin reiterated that the United States is committed to the defense of its ally and would use any means necessary to defend it from attack, including nuclear weapons.

Moreover, he said, the United States recognizes Japan’s claim to the Senkaku Islands as part of this pledge. Japan has mostly controlled the Senkaku Islands, which lie in the East China Sea, since 1895, but the Chinese regime began asserting its right over the islands in the 1970s and called them the Diaoyu Islands.

“Japan and the United States remain united in the face of China’s destabilizing actions,” Austin said.

“I want to reaffirm the United States’ iron-clad commitment to defend Japan with the full range of capabilities, including nuclear, and underscore that Article Five of the Mutual Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands.”

Article 5 of the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the two countries maintains that the United States will defend Japan if it is attacked by a third party.

Japan’s constitution limits its military to a self-defense role. While Japan’s constitution does not outright ban nuclear weapons, the nation does not maintain any type of nuclear weapons due to longstanding policies.

Andrew Thornebrooke contributed to this report.

Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.

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