Byline: Richard Halloran, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
HONOLULU - U.S. and Japanese military officers and defense officials will be sitting down in Washington, in Tokyo and at U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii over the coming months to determine ways to put muscle behind the swiftly maturing alliance between the United States and Japan.
If all goes well, U.S. and Japanese defense officials say, those efforts will produce a joint declaration by President Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi this fall that will reflect the most fundamental and far-reaching revision of the alliance since the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty was rewritten in 1960.
The critical feature: The United States and Japan will transform their security bond from one of senior partner/junior partner to one of near equals in policy and strategy, even if the military power of the United States overshadows that of Japan.
"The joint declaration at the end of this process will define a new alliance," said a retired senior Japanese officer who consults on these issues. An American officer said that "a major sea change is under way in our relationship."
The United States and Japan appear to be moving closer in response to rising anti-Japanese sentiments in China, South Korea and North Korea that Japanese commentators say have caused alarm in their nation.
The Japanese and U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified while discussions are under way, said the vital issues to be resolved include:
* Deciding which forces will be responsible for what roles and missions.
* Expanding combined operations and training, especially between the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. The navies and air forces, which already coordinate many operations, would expand their cooperation.
* Sharing intelligence as the Japanese, in particular, strengthen their ability to collect and analyze information.
* Revising war plans, a touchy subject that officials are reluctant to discuss in public. An American officer said, however: "We continually review our bilateral coordination mechanisms and processes."
* Moving a U.S. Army corps headquarters to Japan from the United States to facilitate combined planning, training and operations with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
* Researching and building a combined ballistic missile defense that would aim first at the missile threat from North Korea, which fired a missile over Japan in 1998, and then at the longer-range threat from China.
All of that is part of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's plan for a rigorous overhaul of the U.S. military posture in Asia. The plan also calls for dismantling the many-layered command structure in South Korea, consolidating control under a streamlined U.S. headquarters in Japan, reducing the number of U. …