US Cabinet-level visit to Japan aims to cement cornerstone alliance

The visit of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J.  Blinken to Japan is all about consulting on shared concerns and opportunities in the Indo-Pacific, a senior US defense official said March 15.

The official told reporters traveling with Austin that the meetings in Tokyo signify the importance the new administration places on U.S. relationships in Northeast Asia.

Blinken and Austin will meet with Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.

The trip is about investing in the U.S.-Japan relationship, “which is our cornerstone alliance for Indo-Pacific strategy,” the official said. “It’s about maintaining peace and stability across the priority theater for the department and for our country.”

Diplomacy is at the center of U.S. foreign policy. The Defense and State department secretaries making the visits by cabinet-level leaders in the Biden administration to Northeast Asia sends an unmistakable signal of the importance that America places on the relationship. The official said Austin wants to engage in a deepened, sustained discussion about the regional security environment. He will get the Japanese perspective of the region, including the situation in North Korea, the rise of China and adventurism by the Russians. 

Japan and the United States are treaty allies. But beyond that both nations share the commitment to defending the rule-based international order, the official said.

Finally, Austin wants to discuss ways to increase military interoperability with Japanese leaders. “We’ve got a very strong alliance with Japan, and we’re going to be looking at ways where we can make it stronger,” the official said. 

He noted that just as the United States military is looking at a strategic posture review, so, too, are the Japanese. “So, this is an opportunity for us to talk about how we can build interoperability within the alliance to strengthen the interoperability within our alliance, what kind of capabilities we need to invest in, [and] how we can work together to better advance our shared goals and common objectives,” he said. DEFENSE.GOV