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Japan and the United States are planning to strengthen their defense alliance and upgrade the US military’s posture in the country, moves aimed at countering China’s influence, CNN reported Thursday.

Officials from both countries announced the plan during the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting on Wednesday, days before US President Joe Biden plans to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House.

Officials said a newly redesignated US Marine unit with advanced intelligence capability will be based on Japan’s Okinawa Island. The revamped unit is intended to be a stand-in force that could defend Japan and quickly respond to contingencies. This move has been described as one of the most significant adjustments to the US military force posture in the region in years.

The changes come after simulated war scenarios conducted by a Washington think tank revealed that Japan, and particularly Okinawa, would play a crucial role in a military clash with China, giving the US forward deployment and basing options.

US and Japan also said they are expanding their defense treaty to include attacks to or from space, in response to China’s fast-developing space program and hypersonic weapons.

The announcement comes less than a month after Japan unveiled a new plan that signals the nation’s biggest military buildup since World War II. The new national security strategy would double defense spending and move Japan away from its pacifist constitution in the face of growing threats from regional rivals, including China.

China has been boosting its navy and air force in the region, while also increasing its military pressure on self-governing Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory.

Before the US-Japan announcement, Chinese officials cautioned that any such military cooperation “should not harm the interests of any third party or undermine peace and stability in the region.”

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