image Photo: Ariel Hermoni (IMoD)

Israel, Japan Sign Defense MOU

The bilateral cooperation pact came upon completion of a two-day visit to Tokyo by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, as the two countries commemorated the 70th year of diplomatic relations.

 By Erin Viner

The historic visit marked the first time an Israeli Defense Minister traveled to the the Asian economic powerhouse nation since 2012.

Defense Minister Gantz was welcomed to Tokyo by his Japanese counterpart Hamada Yasukazu with an honor guard ceremony followed by dialogue between the parties.

Israel and Japan share common concern over increasing global tensions from Asia to the Middle East.

Upon completion of the meeting, the Ministers signed a Memorandum of Defense Cooperation (MOU) that will “enable the respective countries to widen defense, strategic and military exchanges,” said a statement from the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMoD).

Ministers Gantz and Yasukazu emphasized that the pact serves as an opportunity to further promote defense cooperation between the countries.

“In Israel, our troops serve in the IDF because our mission is to defend our people,” said Lieutenant General (Ret.) Gantz during a ceremony at the Japanese Ministry of Defense, underscoring that “Our countries share a common goal – defending our homes and seeking peace and stability. Cooperation between Israel and Japan in developing technology and sharing knowledge, will enable us to achieve our common vision.”

The Jerusalem’s top defense official also emphasized that, “Global stability is threatened by Iran’s nuclear program and malign activities. I have just returned from a visit to our close, shared ally – the United States, where I discussed the nuclear agreement with Iran. This threat requires a united international front led by the US.”

During a later joint news conference, Minister Gantz noted that the Defense MOU with Japan will have “real-world ramifications to this, both on the military level and in research and development, and also on the level of defense industries down the line.”

Japanese Defense Minister Hamada said he welcomes bolstered military relations with Israel as a means to reach a “free and open Indo-Pacific” model backed by his nation and the US to counter China’s campaign to expand influence in the region.

Jerusalem is anticipating increased defense exports to Tokyo, which has signaled intent to boost military spending amid more assertive conduct by Beijing.

Israeli Defense Attaché Alon Yehoshua revealed that Japan has expressed particular interest in cooperating on cyber technologies; while a Japanese Defense Ministry official said Gantz and his hosts had “agreed to continue looking at ways that the two countries can cooperate in defense” but that they had not discussed any specific projects or procurement deals.

Israeli defense exports reached a record high of ₪ 36 billion shekels ($11.3 billion or €10.4) in 2021, making the tiny Jewish State the world’s 10th-biggest defense exporter.

Japan has been reviewing post-World War Two restrictions on its armed forces budget over rising concern that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could embolden China to threaten neighboring self-ruled Taiwan, an island over which it claims sovereignty.

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has announced intent to double defense spending to 2% of the country’s GDP, which would facilitate the creation of the world’s third-largest military budget.

During his official visit to Japan, Minister Gantz also met with senior government officials including Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu, National Security Advisor Akiba Takeo, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hayashi Yoshimasa. Minister Gantz also held a meeting with US Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emmanuel. He was accompanied by his Chief of Staff Maayan Israeli, IMoD Director General Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amir Eshel, Military Secretary Brigadier General Yaki Dolf, Israeli Ambassador to Japan Gilad Cohen and Defense Attaché Yehoshua.