The United States has deployed an advanced aircraft carrier in Japan in a bid to further strengthen ties with one of its most important strategic partners.

US Consolidates Presence In Japan

One of US Navy’s most advanced aircraft carriers, USS Ronald Reagan has docked at the Yokosuka naval base in a move that will further strengthen the defensive and offensive capabilities of the Seventh Fleet in Asia. This move further consolidates USA’s presence in a region where it has been keeping a keen eye on activity for decades.

Boasting a crew of 5,000 sailors and 80 aircraft, USS Ronald Reagan is armed to the teeth, equipped with the latest targeting and defense radars, integrated weapons systems and command and communications technology. This deployment marks an upgrade to the naval fleet with the USS George Washington being replaced by a more advanced aircraft carrier.

The new carrier’s commander, Chris Bolt, while talking at a press briefing at the Yokosuka naval base, told that the new carrier brings with it new offensive and defensive features that will prove to be an important clog in the monitoring of the region.

“We have some tremendous command and control capabilities,” he said.

In recent times, United States has become more involved towards Asia and is on a mission to rebalance its forces. Currently, 60 percent of the navy is in Asia and that includes the most advanced vessels.

Japan to become a great contributor to American agendas in Asia

The move comes after Japanese lawmakers approved a legislation that would allow the country’s military to fight overseas for the first time since the Second World War. With 70 years of pacifism shunned, Japan is set to become a great contributor to American agendas in the region.

Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe is actively pursuing a doctrine of collective self-defense with its allies as he is desperate to see his nation be given a bigger role in regional security while also proving itself to be a counterweight in light of China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.

There already had been a lot of talk about taking things to the next phase in terms of giving Japan the power to help further American interests and the timing couldn’t have been better.

“We have many, many exercises that we do, we are very inter-operable because of our equipment and our training. So, we think that these new measures will deepen that, will strengthen that, and will make us better together,” Ray Mabus, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, told a press briefing in Yokohama.

The Reagan is expected to leave the Japanese port in a few weeks as it tours the western part of the Pacific Ocean and get acclimatized to its new surroundings.

Revisiting ACSA

Previously, it had been reported that Japan may seek to make changes to the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with the United States in a bid to be able to receive military supplies in the event Japan chooses to exercise its right to collective self-defense under the aforementioned legislation.

The revised ACSA will also pave the way for supplies from Japan to the US military and the other way around in two other situations:

  • when Japan’s survival is at stake or is in imminent danger, which will allow it to exercise the right to collective self-defense
  • in the event when Japan could be under a direct armed attack

The current year is going to be a pivotal one in US-Japan relations. With China posing multitudes of strategic and economic challenges to both nations, Washington is completely committed to rebalancing its act in Asia. In recent memory, Japan hasn’t had the best of relations with the likes of South Korea and China (over territorial disputes). Now, Tokyo seeks a more active role in regional security.

Bitter foes in World War II, fierce economic competitors in the 1980s and 1990s, both countries nonetheless have equal ambitions in the region. In the long haul, America is keen on building an economically and strategically viable relation with Japan.

This sudden change in tone is largely due to China’s recent shenanigans in the region. Beijing looms large and Washington could really do with an ally that so far is on the same wavelength.

In spite of the murky history that these two share, China’s growing influence in the region is most definitely the main reason why both nations seem to agree that this is one foe they need to handle together if they are to bring order and pursue their respective regional agendas.

Now, that US has made a huge statement with regards to its commitment to the region, Japan can really heave a huge sigh of relief. A few days back, Japan was facing a different reality and must have felt like the one lonely kid nobody wants to play with. Abe Shinzo was unable to meet Barack Obama on the sidelines of the 70th year founding celebrations of the United Nations (UN).

Moreover, the fact that he was able to hold meetings with Vladimir Putin, Russian President, and Park Geun-hye, South Korea President, gave the impression that Japan could also be set to become part of a world where the traditional alliances are changing gradually. The UN celebrations hinted at Japan’s diminishing role at the UN proceedings and the rise of China in world affairs.

The timing of these latest tidings was perhaps the perfect one after so many question marks were thrown in the way of US-Japan relations. Many thought that China might have thrown a wrench somewhere between those relations.

However, before making any opinions, it should be kept in mind that when it comes to trade deals, Japan has been unable to be as active as China has been with US despite the fractious relations the two have experienced in recent months.

Moreover, it appears that the Japanese public is not very pleased with the government’s sudden shift in policy and thirst for active participation in regional security. Earlier in September, there were widespread protests in Tokyo and other cities against the government’s military aspirations. And on the day the carrier was to dock, there were further protests in the capital with people asking the government to reassess its ambitions.

However, that will not really make much of a difference since the decision has been made and Japan will not let go of a chance to become an active partner in regional security especially with China really flexing its muscles with extreme confidence.