- Biden-Kishida summit launches “Economic 2+2” process
- First US-Japan joint statement on nuclear non-proliferation treaty issued in nearly 7 years
- Ruling party-backed candidate wins Nago mayoral election
- New US ambassador Emanuel finally arrives in Tokyo
- First-ever deployment of US drones to a Japanese base planned
- President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida met virtually for 90 minutes on January 21 to discuss strategy for various regional and global issues, vowing to strengthen defense cooperation and economic policy coordination. Their first in-depth meeting since Kishida became Prime Minister in October, the two leaders announced plans for an in-person summit in Tokyo in the first half of 2022 alongside other Quad leaders. They also unveiled a new ministerial Japan-US Economic Policy Consultative Committee (an economic “2+2” involving State/Commerce and MOFA/METI) to drive and track economic security cooperation related to their Competitiveness and Resilience (CoRe) Partnership which was first outlined in 2021. The leaders’ critique of China’s human rights practices and aggressiveness in the East and South China seas drew complaints from Beijing.
- The US and Japanese governments issued a joint statement on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on January 20, in anticipation of convening the long-delayed 10th NPT Review Conference in New York in 2022. The statement reiterated traditional alliance support for the NPT regime and related initiatives including the test-ban and fissile material cutoff treaties, and it requested China to contribute more to advance nuclear disarmament and reduce nuclear risks (the first time China has appeared by name in such a joint statement).
- A mayoral election in the Okinawan city of Nago on January 23 resulted in a win by incumbent and LDP-backed Toguchi with 57% of 34,134 votes cast. Toguchi’s victory over opposition-backed Kishimoto assuaged some fears of renewed obstruction to the relocation of US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Nago’s Henoko district. While this issue was previously a top concern of area voters, it polled lower among voters’ priorities. A recent Asahi survey showed only 30% of respondents thought that base relocation was the most important issue, while 50% cited local economic promotion policies. Voter turnout was relatively low at 68%.
- New US ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel arrived in Tokyo on January 23, ending a 2½ year vacancy of the post. Emanuel described the US-Japan alliance as “a beacon of endless possibility and promise” in the region, and he pledged to deepen bilateral ties and confront common challenges together, highlighting the China challenge. Amb. Emanuel officially begins his duties on February 3, following 10 days of quarantine.
- Japan and the United States plan to deploy around seven MQ-9 (Reaper) unmanned military reconnaissance aircraft to a Japanese SDF base in Kanoya, Kagoshima, according to Japanese news reports. This would be the first such deployment of these long-range (up to 2,500km) UAVs, likely meant to increase surveillance of Chinese maritime activities in the East China Sea. Supported by about 100 US personnel, the deployment will take advantage of increasing “joint-shared use” of each other’s facilities in Japan, as mentioned at the 2+2 meeting earlier this month. Defense Minister Kishi confirmed the possibility of this temporary deployment on January 28.
“US-Japan Alliance Digest” is a bi-weekly summary of bilateral and related developments compiled by Sasakawa USA’s “US-Japan NEXT Alliance Initiative.” To receive “Alliance Digest” via email, contact firstname.lastname@example.org