The U.S. fired a series of policy warning shots at China and North Korea Monday, announcing major steps in strengthening its alliance with Japan.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that Japan will receive a new American AN/TPY-2 "Tippy Two" mobile radar in addition to one already in the Shariki area as part of U.S. efforts to strengthen "deterrence and a nuclear umbrella" in the region. Hagel briefed the press Monday afternoon alongside his Japanese counterpart, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, following closed-door meetings.
The defense chiefs also announced the creation of a new "Defense ISR working group" aimed at sharing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance between the two countries. A new squadron of MV-22 Ospreys will deploy to Japan this summer to "increase capabilities in the region," while the U.S. Marine Corps will move the bulk of its forces from Okinawa to Guam.
Hagel was quick to detail these efforts, which are meant to quell instability caused by North Korea's nuclear ambitions and China's increasingly expeditious navy.
"The U.S., like all of its allies in the region, as well as 80 countries all over the world, are very concerned about the situation on the Korean peninsula," Hagel said. "We are working with our allies to be prepared for any contingency, but I would again call on the North Korean government to take the path of peace."
"There is an effective, wise course of action to enhance their people, their nation, and they should take advantage of that," he said.
China and Japan have repeatedly sparred over a chain of islands in the East China Sea, with each country backing their territorial claims with provocative navy and aerial maneuvers.
"Any actions that could raise tensions or lead to miscalculations affect the stability of the entire region," Hagel said. "The U.S. opposes any unilateral or coercive action that seeks to undermine Japan's administrative control."
Onodera says Japan has no reason to believe the situation on the Korean peninsula has cooled at all. The defense minister reiterated the importance of the increased military alliance between the U.S. and Japan, particularly rebalancing Marines off of Okinawa.
"For the time being, I have not received any information that would allow us to level down our level of patrols and surveillance against North Korea," he said through a translator.
These "land returns" are "important steps for mitigating impacts on Okinawa," he said.
Tensions between U.S. troops and residents of Okinawa have reached a boiling point in recent years, following off-base incidents that have enraged local leaders. The U.S. military issued a Japan-wide curfew and has set strict alcohol restrictions on servicemembers, reports Stars and Stripes, in an attempt to sooth public anger.
Reporters at the Monday briefing pressed Hagel for more information about the U.S. plan in Syria. The Pentagon confirmed in a statement with "some degree of varying confidence" that the Syrian regime under President Bashar al-Assad has likely used sarin and other chemical agents against its own people.
"We are continuing to assess what happened: When, where, all the questions you asked," Hagel told reporters. "I think we should wait and get the facts before we should make any judgement on when any action should be taken and what kind of action."
When asked for specifics, such as a potential plan to establish a no-fly zone, Hagel said, "I'm not going to speculate," adding his role and responsibility is to present President Barack Obama with options.
"We are prepared to give the president options for every contingency," he said.