The United States and Japan deepened their strategic alliance and outlined actions in a joint statement Wednesday designed to deter intensifying Chinese military threats in the East China Sea and around Taiwan.
Those actions include plans to reorganize U.S. Marine Corps units based in Okinawa and new agreements to cooperate on space and advanced military technologies.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin took part in Wednesday’s so-called 2+2 talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Japanese Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu.
While China attempts to “establish a new normal” in the Taiwan Strait by ramping up provocative military activities, Austin said it does not equal a sign of an imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
"We've seen increased aerial activity in the Strait, we've seen increased surface vessel activity around Taiwan," Austin told reporters during a joint press conference. "But whether or not that means that an invasion is imminent, you know, I seriously doubt that."
Blinken said China has tried to “undermine the long-standing status quo that's maintained peace and stability (in the Taiwan Strait) for decades” while the U.S. wants to bolster it.
“We will continue for a calm, resolute approach to uphold peace and stability,” said the top U.S. diplomat.
In the joint statement issued Wednesday evening, the United States and Japan said they will advance initiatives to build “a more capable, integrated, and agile Alliance that bolsters deterrence.”
Both nations also will optimize the force postures in the Indo-Pacific, creating a new Marine Littoral Regiment in Okinawa by 2025. Officials said the new regiment will be equipped with anti-ship and other advanced capabilities.
Foreign Minister Hayashi said both countries will take “joint initiatives at peacetime to deter armed attacks” that “undermine regional stability.”
Defense Minister Hamada added that the two allies will expand joint use of the facilities of Japan, while increasing joint exercises and trainings of forces.
Austin and Hamada will meet again Thursday at the Pentagon.
On Friday, U.S. President Joe Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
A senior administration official told Reuters the two leaders are expected to discuss security and global economy issues, as well as semiconductor exports to China.
Earlier Wednesday, Rear Admiral Michael Studeman, the commander of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, said during a virtual event that the People’s Republic of China continues to pressure Taiwan through increasing military activities.
"The Chinese continue to put a lot of aircraft and patrollers in all axes around Taiwan as they attempt to pressure both Taiwan and signal to the United States and other allies about where they stand on things,” Studeman said. “The stakes have gone up and the danger level is something that we need to take very seriously.”
A recent report by Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the United States must be able to use its bases in Japan for combat operations in the event of a Chinese invasion in Taiwan.
“Without the use of U.S. bases in Japan, U.S. fighter and attack aircraft cannot effectively participate in the war,” said the CSIS report.
The talks between the nations’ diplomatic and defense chiefs come two days before U.S. President Joe Biden is set to host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House.
The deepening of U.S.-Japan strategic alliance follows the release of Japan’s new National Security Strategy under which it will roughly double defense spending over the next five years and for the first time deploy missiles that can hit military targets in other countries.
Japan and the United Kingdom also pledged more security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region on Wednesday.
Kishida, who’s visiting London, signed a landmark defense agreement with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The agreement allows UK forces to be deployed to Japan. British officials said it is “the most significant defense agreement between the two countries in more than a century.”