While most of the United States media class is distracted by the spectacle of feckless politicians squabbling away in Washington, real news is happening halfway around the world. Japan and the US have signed a landmark agreement that includes provisions for a new missile defense system in Japan, stations American surveillance drones at Japanese air bases, and provides for coordination on cyber threats. The New York Times buried the story on A11 of its print edition:
“Our bilateral defense cooperation, including America’s commitment to the security of Japan, is a critical component of our overall relationship,” Mr. Hagel told reporters, “and to the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia-Pacific.”
For its part, Japan committed to bolster its security capabilities by creating a new American-style National Security Council, and said it would expand assistance to Southeast Asian countries to help them resist Chinese territorial claims. Japan also pledged to increase military spending over all, despite the country’s need to pare down its huge national debt, and said it might change its current interpretation of its pacifist Constitution to allow its military to come to the aid of American forces under attack.
This is a very big deal. Despite all the distractions, the pivot to Asia continues to be a priority for this country and will shape American foreign policy way beyond Obama’s time in office; it’s certainly more consequential than the effect of the budget wars on domestic politics.
[Photo courtesy Getty Images.]