Hagel met at the Pentagon today with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and in a joint press conference afterward said the United States strongly supports the move, calling the decision by Japan's government bold and historic. If approved by parliament, Hagel said the change would enable the U.S. ally "to significantly increase its contribution to regional and global security and expand its role on the world stage."
The United States and Japan will work together now to revise U.S.-Japan defense guidelines. "Today, we confirm that these new guidelines should be in place by the end of this year," Hagel said. The revisions will allow Japan to participate more fully in such areas as ballistic missile defense, counterproliferation, counterpiracy, peacekeeping, and a wide range of military exercises.
The two countries also will be able to work more closely together on maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and other areas, Hagel said. "We can raise our alliance to a new level, and we intend to do that," he said.
The two said they discussed what the United States and Japan will do to modernize the alliance to ensure it is prepared to address emerging threats and challenges. Onodera said he and Hagel also discussed security in the broader Asia Pacific region.
Hagel reiterated the longstanding U.S. position on a territorial dispute that the Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China, are under Japan's administrative control and fall under the U.S.-Japan mutual security treaty.
"The United States opposes any attempts by any country to change the status quo through destabilizing unilateral actions, and we oppose any effort to restrict overflight or freedom of navigation," Hagel said. China declared an air defense zone over the islands last year.
Both defense leaders stressed the importance of good relations with China.