Japan and US Agree to Expand Joint Counter-Hypersonic Weapons Research During High Level Meeting

On 14 September, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met his Japanese counterpart Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada in Washington. This is the first time Austin and Hamada met in person since Hamada was appointed to the position in August.

The most significant announcement during the meeting was that the US and Japan will undertake closer cooperation in the realm of counter hypersonic missile research. Other highlighted areas of joint research and cooperation included drones, aircraft, cyber security and supply chain resilience. According to an official release by the Japanese Ministry of Defense:

“The Ministers concurred that Japan and the United States would further accelerate cooperation in the area of equipment and technology to ensure technological edge of the Alliance. From such perspective, the Ministers agreed to continue joint analysis on counter-hypersonic technology and based on its progress, to begin consideration of joint research on technologies and components. The Ministers also concurred to further accelerate cooperation in unmanned aerial vehicles that have the potential to collaborate with manned aircraft such as F-X, as well as efforts to strengthen supply chains, etc.”

Japanese forces during a joint exercise with US Marines (USMC/Cpl. Aidan Hekker)

The meeting also included discussions about the current defense environment facing the US and Japan and included the typical references to the threat posed by China, North Korea and Russia; defending Taiwan; and to the joint interests and values that America and Japan share.

According to Secretary Austin:

“We also share a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and a rules-based international order. But China’s recent aggressive behavior and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, are serious challenges to that vision. […] Let’s be clear, China’s coercive actions in the Taiwan Strait, and the waters surrounding Japan are provocative, destabilizing and aggressive. Our response, together with Japan and our other allies and partners, had been responsible, steady and resolute.”

During the trip, Hamada lay a wreath at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery (Japanes MoD)

Austin also reiterated that the US is willing to use its full conventional and nuclear force to defend Japan. Hamada also implied that Japan will be increasing its offensive capabilities by stating that “counter-attack capability” is an important consideration in the design of Japan’s new national security strategy.