US envoy calls for Japan's help to quickly replenish US missile inventory, repair warships

The ambassador said China’s shipbuilding capacity will surpass the U.S. and that repairs in Japan of U.S. Navy ships and Air Force aircraft deployed in the region can free up U.S. industrial capacity
US and Japanese flags are seen posted on the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington
US and Japanese flags are seen posted on the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House in WashingtonFile Photo | AFP

TOKYO: The United States needs Japan's help to quickly replenish missile inventory and repair warships as conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine continue and Washington seeks to keep its deterrence credible in the Indo-Pacific, the U.S. ambassador to Japan said.

"It is clear that the United States military industrial base cannot meet all the strategic challenges that we have and obligations we have,” Ambassador Rahm Emanuel said Monday.

He spoke as Japan and the U.S. held their first talks to accelerate military industrial cooperation, two months after an April agreement between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden.

This week’s talks in Tokyo are between U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante and his Japanese counterpart, Masaki Fukasawa, head of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency.

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They agreed to establish working groups for missile co-production and for maintenance and repair of U.S. Navy ships and Air Force aircraft in the region, the Japanese Defense Ministry said in a statement. There will be also a group to discuss a stronger supply chain.

On Tuesday, the two countries held the first meeting of the Japanese shipyard repair working group, which will help U.S. shipbuilders focus on new ships while allowing ships to be repaired in Japan for greater efficiency and deterrence.

Fukasawa, in his opening remark at the meeting, said he hoped regional repair of U.S. Naval ships will help strengthen the Japanese defense industry, whose customers are largely limited to Japan's Defense Ministry and Self-Defense Force. Recent changes to defense policies are seen to be creating new business opportunities, however.

The industrial cooperation talks come at a time of growing tension in the face of an increasingly assertive China in the Indo-Pacific.

“The goal here is not more meetings. The goal is production,” Emanuel said on Monday, adding: “Those who want to do harm to the United States are not going to wait for our industrial capacity to build itself up."

The ambassador said China’s shipbuilding capacity will surpass the U.S. and that repairs in Japan of U.S. Navy ships and Air Force aircraft deployed in the region can free up U.S. industrial capacity to focus on building new ships.

Japan has been accelerating its military buildup and significantly increased joint operations with the United States, while trying to strengthen its mostly domestic defense industry.

Japan is the only foreign home port for a U.S. aircraft carrier deployed in the region.

Japan in December eased its arms export restrictions to accommodate a U.S. request for shipment of surface-to-air PAC-3 missile interceptors produced in Japan under an American license to complement U.S. inventory that has decreased due to its support for Ukraine.

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