Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosts Japan’s Minister of Defense Yasukazu Hamada for talks at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Sept. 14, 2022. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada reaffirmed their commitment to an alliance on Wednesday during the defense secretaries’ first meeting since Hamada’s appointment in August.

The U.S.-Japan Alliance remains a cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and both countries are bound by deep friendship and trust, Austin said during his welcoming remarks. The two countries share common interests and a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, as well as a rules-based international order, he added.

“But China’s recent aggressive behavior and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine are serious challenges to that vision,” Austin said. “So let’s be clear. China’s coercive actions in the Taiwan Strait and in the waters surrounding Japan are provocative, destabilizing and unprecedented.”

In his remarks during the welcoming, Hamada said, “We have seen various events that are of concern for the Japan-U.S. alliance, one after another, including Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the landing of China’s ballistic missiles near waters of Japan, and China and Russia’s joint exercise around Japan. We can never condone unilateral attempts to change the status quo in any parts of the world”.

Austin reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to the defense of Japan, which includes the U.S. commitment to credible and resilient extended deterrence “using the full range of our conventional and nuclear capabilities.” Hamada said he would cooperate with Austin to make sure that that the extended deterrence, including nuclear capabilities, remains credible and resilient.

The two defense chiefs held a 95 minute discussion on a variety of items, according to a Japan Ministry of Defense news release on the meeting. They criticized China’s ballistic missile launches last month and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and also highlighted how crucial it is to maintain calm in the Taiwan Strait.

“Regarding North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues, the Ministers welcomed the Japan-U.S.-ROK exercise during the missile warning exercise Pacific Dragon in August. The Ministers confirmed that they would further advance even closer Japan-U.S. bilateral and Japan-U.S.-ROK trilateral cooperation in order to promptly respond to North Korea’s provocative actions in a concerted manner,” the release reads.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday announced that Russia and China are carrying out a joint naval patrol in the Pacific Ocean.

“As part of the implementation of the program of international military cooperation, warships of the Russian Navy and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Naval Forces are conducting a second joint patrolling in the Pacific Ocean,” the ministry said in its release, adding that the patrolling mission is meant to strengthen naval cooperation between Russia and China, maintain peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region, monitor sea waters, and protect Russian and Chinese maritime economic activity.

Russian Navy ships involved in the patrol include destroyer RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov (543); corvettes RFS Sovershennyy (333), RFS Gromkiy (335) and RFS Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339); and replenishment ship Pechanga. The People’s Army Liberation Navy contingent includes destroyer CNS Nanchang (101), frigate CNS Yancheng (546) and replenishment ship CNS Dongpinghu (902).

NanchangYancheng and Dongpinghu took part in Russia’s Vostok 2022 strategic drill, which ended on Sept. 7. The PLAN ships – along with SovershennyyGromkiy and Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov – conducted drills and live firing in the Sea of Japan on Sept. 3 before sailing east through La Pérouse Strait the next day. This is the second time Russian and Chinese ships have carried out a joint naval patrol; the first occasion was last October.