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US, Japan to expand security alliance into space to counter China

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, left, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met to discuss military cooperation in Washington, January 11, 2023.

The United States and Japan say they are extending security alliance to space, in a push to defend against attacks on satellites in order to counter the growing power of China.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement after he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met their Japanese counterparts in Washington on Wednesday.

Blinken said attacks in space would invoke its defense treaty with Japan. “We agree that attacks to, from or within space present a clear challenge."

“We affirm that, depending on the nature of those attacks, this could lead to the invocation of Article 5 of our Japan-US security treaty,” the top US diplomat said, pointing to the section of the treaty stipulating that an attack on either party would prompt the other to “act to meet the common danger."

The announcement marks the latest effort by Washington and Tokyo to increase cooperation for a possible conflict with China over the self-ruled island of Chinese Taipei.

While the US has taken an increasingly hawkish stance towards Beijing, it has also welcomed a radical security policy-shift by Japan that will include a substantial increase in defense spending and acquisition of counterstrike capabilities. The five-year expansion of its military budget includes ¥5tn ($38bn) to buy Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US, which would allow Tokyo to strike targets in China.

“Japan is stepping up big time and doing so in lock step with the United States, partners in the Indo-Pacific, and in Europe,” Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, said in a statement. “President Biden’s investment in our alliances is paying huge dividends to bolster deterrence and advance peace and security in the Indo-Pacific — and globally.”

Senior defense officials and diplomats also announced the long-planned stationing of a US Marine Littoral Regiment, the Marine Corps’ most advanced formation, in Okinawa, to be completed by 2025. The unit includes advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities as well as anti-ship and transportation capabilities, officials said. They also agreed to bolster bilateral training and exercises in Japan’s Southwest islands, which Tokyo calls the Nansei islands, where China has recently increased its naval presence.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is due in Washington later this week for a Friday meeting with President Joe Biden.

Wang Wenbin, spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, told a regular press briefing on Thursday, "In conducting bilateral military cooperation, the United States and Japan should ensure that it does not harm the interests of a third party or regional peace and stability."

China has always warned the US against military activities in the region. Beijing says potential close military encounters between the air and naval forces of the two countries in the region may cause accidents.

China has sovereignty over Chinese Taipei, and under the 'One China' policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty, meaning they would not establish direct diplomatic contact with the self-proclaimed government in Taipei.

China has warned US and its allies against establishing any official contact with Chinese Taipei, urging the bloc to "act prudently" to avoid harming relations with Beijing.

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