For the first time ever, the US Department of Defense (DoD) is planning to station Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) liaison officers with key US military commands in the Washington, DC area. Currently, JSDF officers are periodically assigned liaison duties with the US Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Virginia and routinely work with US military research organizations dedicated to the study of land, air, and sea warfare. During the Iraqi War, JSDF officers served side-by-side with US military leaders within the US Central Command in Florida as well.
In establishing a permanent Japanese liaison structure within existing US commands, the planners hope to improve bilateral cooperation, enhance response to emergency situations of mutual interest, and assist Japanese military officers gain firsthand experience in the decision-making process exercised by US military organizations.
US military leaders wish to strengthen ties with Japan as part of the Obama administration’s plan to focus attention on the Asia-Pacific region. The strategic shift of US military forces to the Pacific has become increasingly important with China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea and elsewhere in the Pacific appearing to escalate in recent weeks.
American leaders also hope to develop a structure that can respond more rapidly to natural disasters, humanitarian emergencies, piracy, and threats to maritime trade. In the past, no formal US-JSDF liaison structure was manned in peacetime.
In contrast, Australian and British officers have been assigned to key US commands to enhance cooperative efforts, coordinate joint activities, and streamline communications for quite some time. This arrangement has helped these two long-term allies gain valuable insight into the thinking driving US strategy.
The proposal calls for detailing Japanese officers from the Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to serve with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. No timetable or schedule to complete this arrangement was announced.