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Defense Secretary Ash Carter, far right, and Secretary of State John Kerry, second from right, shake hands with Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, far left, and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida after a joint press conference in New York City, April 27, 2015. DOD screen shot.

The US and Japan reached an agreement on updated US-Japan Defense Cooperation guidelines for the first time since 1997, officials announced April 27. The agreement, which marks the first major revisions since Japan lifted its constitutional ban on “collective self defense” activities, follows extensive negotiations, which were delayed late last year. Announcing the agreement in New York with Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the Japanese minister of defense and foreign minister, Secretary of State John Kerry called the guidelines a “historic transition” in the US-Japan alliance, noting the changes will enhance Japan’s security, help deter threats, and allow the Japanese to make greater contributions to regional and global security. The changes, which were announced the week of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Washington, D.C., now allow Japan Self Defense Forces to cooperate and coordinate with US forces around the world, and expand cooperation in both space and cyberspace activities. The new guidelines allow the allies to “modernize” the alliance, Carter said, adding later this week he will work with his counterpart, Japan’s Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, to finalize plans for a bilateral space operations working group. The updated agreement will allow Japan to collaborate with the US “in the Asia-Pacific region and the region beyond that,” Nakatani said through an interpreter. (Joint 2+2 statement).