By sharing costs with Japan, the United States has been able to develop more advanced missile defense technology, both protecting Japanese territory and securing the safety of U.S. officers in Japan, home of the U.S.’ largest deployed naval fleet (1). Although both Japan and the U.S. share the benefit of geographic isolation, new weapons developments weaken the geopolitical advantage of being surrounded by water, especially with Japan’s close proximity to North Korea (1). Despite its distance from the U.S., North Korea’s extensive nuclear arsenal is as threatening to the U.S. as it is to Japan, with some of the largest U.S. military bases in the world stationed in Japan. Consequently, the U.S. has heavily financed ballistic missile defense projects, bolstering its existing programs by pooling resources with Japan in service of their mutual interests (1).
Aside from building a relationship with Japan, the U.S. has also pursued similar defense initiatives with China, such as the establishment of a Joint Center for Nuclear Excellence in 2011. America’s simultaneous cooperation with Japan and China, while keeping the U.S. in a favorable position, has created a complicated “triangular relationship” between the three countries (2). While the U.S., Japan, and China are all dedicated to the denuclearization of North Korea, significant tension remains between Japan and China, given their history of conflict and continued hostility over disputed territory in the East China Sea (1). Given the strained relationship between Japan and China, the possibility of a conflict erupting between them still remains, explaining why China’s recent military buildup is a such a concern for Japan (1). Furthermore, while a similar conflict between the U.S. and China is less likely, given their recent nuclear security collaboration, China’s military advancements—particularly the development of multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, or MIRVs, is still worrisome to the U.S. as well (3).
While the developments in China only increase Japan’s trepidation, Japan has reason to remain confident in its capabilities. Not only has Japan invested more in missile defense than any other Asian country (1), but Japan also maintains its own mature and comprehensive security relationship with the U.S., dating back to the 1980s. The U.S. and Japan rely heavily on each other in national security, having co-created a two-tiered ballistic missile defense system that includes both Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors to protect from both sea and land-based attacks (1). In addition to their already successful collaboration, the U.S. and Japan have another co-funded, co-developed defense project in the works that will upgrade already existing destroyers, which are to be deployed in 2018 (1). Even with a much smaller defense budget to work with, Japan contributed $85,376,154 to the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor project in the 2015 fiscal year alone, in conjunction with America’s $263,695,000 that same year (1). According to official budget reports from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Japanese Ministry of Defense, Japan’s contributions to the program have saved the U.S. a substantial $431 million as of 2015 (1). Thus, the collaboration between the U.S. and Japan has been hugely beneficial for both countries, enabling them to maximize their resources and make significantly more progress as a joint force, especially during a period of financial stress for both (1).
(1) Hoff, Rachel. "U.S.-Japan Missile Defense Cooperation: Increasing Security and Cutting Costs - AAF." Americanactionforum.org. The American Action Forum, 2 Dec. 2015. Web. 06 July 2016. <https://www.americanactionforum.org/research/u-s-japan-missile-defense-cooperation/>.
(2) Goldstein, Lyle J. "America's Big Opportunity to Lower Tensions in Asia." Nationalinterest.org. The National Interest, 2 Sept. 2015. Web. 06 July 2016. <http://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-big-opportunity-lower-tensions-asia-13758>.
(3) Wheeler, Travis. "China's MIRVs: Separating Fact From Fiction." Thediplomat.com. The Diplomat, 18 May 2016. Web. 06 July 2016. <http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/chinas-mirvs-separating-fact-from-fiction/>.
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