The Irrawaddy

Japan’s Defense Chief Says Alliance with US Will Endure

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter (L) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their talks at the latter's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, December 6, 2016. (Photo: Kimimasa Mayama / Reuters)

TOKYO — Japan’s defense chief said Wednesday she believes her country’s alliance with the United States will endure in the Trump administration because it benefits both countries.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada was asked about President-elect Donald Trump’s suggestion that Japan build its own nuclear deterrent force. She said Japan expects to remain under the US nuclear umbrella.

Inada said discussion about the future of the alliance should focus on shared security capabilities rather than financial burdens. She also said Japan will stick to its vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.

“This will remain unchanged,” she said, implicitly rejecting the notion of Japan developing its own nuclear force. She noted that Japan is the only country in the world to have experienced the horrors of nuclear war.

Inada spoke at a joint news conference Wednesday with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The Pentagon chief noted that the meeting was taking place on the anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, which led to the US entry into World War II.

“It’s a testament to the strength of our alliance and the character of the Japanese people that a mere 75 years after Pearl Harbor, my friend and counterpart, Minister Inada, and I can stand next to each other proudly and discuss how our two countries can strengthen the security of this region together,” Carter said.

He stressed his view that US-Japan relations have never been stronger. “America’s interests in this region are enduring,” he said in reference to speculation about the direction of Trump’s Asia policy.

The transition of power in Washington after eight years with a Democrat in the White House formed the backdrop to Carter’s talks in Tokyo.

On Tuesday, Carter and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the US will return to Japanese government control nearly 10,000 acres of land on Okinawa that US Marines used as a jungle warfare training site.

The giveback, to be completed by Dec. 22, has been in the works for 20 years. It is a reminder of the complexities of post-World War II defense relations with Japan, and puts a spotlight on the fact that Japan still relies on the United States for protection.

After his two-day visit in Tokyo, Carter was heading to India on the second leg of a two-week around-the-world trip he has billed primarily as a chance to thank US troops deployed abroad during the holiday season.

Carter also plans stops in the Middle East and Europe. It is expected to be his final overseas trip as defense secretary.