Japanese Self-Defense Forces and US military to conclude joint exercise

The US Navy and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) are set to conclude the biennial Keen Sword exercises today. While

Japan US military

Photo: Carlos Paria/ Reuters

The US Navy and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) are set to conclude the biennial Keen Sword exercises today.

While the US-Japan alliance remains the core of its national defence strategy, Tokyo continues to expand multilateral ties in response to Washington’s wavering commitment and Beijing’s growing regional influence. The Quad—a four-way dialogue between the US, Japan, India and Australia—began a four-day joint exercise in the Bay of Bengal this week, the first of its kind since 2007. Likewise, Prime Minister Suga’s inaugural ASEAN tour resulted in a statement to increase defence transfers, and a Tokyo visit by Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds kickstarted talks that would enable Japan’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) to protect non-combatant Australian military assets.

Expect Japan to continue to strengthen its capabilities and regional defence ties. Regardless of the outcome of the ongoing US presidential election, the last four years have demonstrated to Japan the need for greater flexibility and power projection capabilities. While the Defence Ministry requested an 8.3% budget increase in September—the highest since the 1990s—Japan’s defence spending remains well below 2%. Spending limits, combined with domestic pushback and constitutional restrictions, will continue to impede those advocating for the SDF’s greater global presence.

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