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Japan unlikely to follow U.S. on defense

27 Comments
By Henry Hilton

When it comes to defense spending, Japan appears to be on strike. While all other states in northeast Asia have been churning out bigger and bigger military budgets, Japan remains stuck with approximately the same ratio of defense expenditure to GDP as a decade ago.

Yet, the recent comments by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer that Tokyo isn't doing enough at a time when "the Japanese people are increasingly apprehensive about military threats emanating from adversaries or potential adversaries" is unlikely to elicit much support from the man in the street.

While many in Japan view the alliance with the United States in a favorable light, there remain plenty of roadblocks to prevent any substantial increase in military budgeting over the next decade. It will take more than careful persuasion from the United States' man in Tokyo to change the current outlook, though few would dissent from his view that both nations' procurement policies could be enhanced in order than they might hope to get a better bang for each buck spent.

At the top levels of government, the era of good feeling that coinicided with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's personal ties to President George W Bush is unlikely to be matched in the near future. With the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's coalition government set for more squabbling over possible successors to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, there will be every incentive to worry increasingly about domestic problems and to leave security issues on the backburner.

The Bush administration can claim with reason that "the U.S.-Japan alliance has been the linchpin of both our foreign policies in the Pacific," but it will be hard to urge Tokyo to spend more for three reasons. First, the public remains anxious over continuing economic weaknesses at home. Secondly, the massive and deserved publicity over U.S. service personnel misbehavior off base can hardly be ignored by politicians. And thirdly, the dangers that Washington identifies within the region may not be fully shared by Japan.

Certainly, no one doubts that "Asia is a region in transition" and that "a new order is emerging," but Japan appears relatively unconcerned over regional developments with the important exception of events in North Korea. And even here there may be some good news shortly. This could lead on from Pyongyang's disclosure of its nuclear details to an eventual agreement between the U.S. and North Korea that would further reduce tension on all sides. Of course, Japan's own major differences with North Korea would still have to be resolved but any declaration of North Korea's nuclear program would have the potential to dramatically change the overall regional temperature.

On a more distant horizon, other events could follow. Any eventual accord between the United States and North Korea would almost certainly lead to the question of what happens next for the American military in northeast Asia. These issues in turn can only prompt basic reconsiderations of the security foundations to the entire U.S.-Japan "special relationship."

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

27 Comments
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There is nothing that can be changed

The Clinton Administration's effort to "shut down the Japanese economy" led to them bolstering the PRC economy to what it is today, leading to a strengthening alliance between the resurgent Russian Federation and the PRC. This scenario is further reinforced w/ the US losing strength and influence in probably the most important multilateral forum emerging - APEC. The US has only the military option in the Indian Ocean to counter, but losing influence big time in the Asia Pacific. The US is set up for dominating bilateral relations, but losing in the multilateral realm in the Asia Pacific. I can't do anything, but watch.

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Secondly, the massive and deserved publicity over U.S. service personnel misbehavior off base can hardly be ignored by politicians

If anything, this should motivate the politicians to increase defense spending and present it to the J-public as a matter of increasing their capabilities while at the same time asking the US to minimize our presence here. I know there are differnces between nations and cultures, but if US politicians can take acts of terror and form them into a cottage industry of anti-terrorism and force protection matters, I sure politicans here can do the same.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the US has created a blind hysteia when there really isn't one, because there is a threat out there, but they do have a tendency to take things a bit too far.

J-gov should view this as an opportunity to start increasing or updating their position militarily in the region, and start making decisions on their own.

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Reading the possible perspectives this column projected for any foreseeable future of this region, I am somewhat at a loss why Japan has to increase its military spending. The dangers that Washington identifies within the region cannot be fully shared by Japan as long as Japan depends on the U.S. for its security.

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"The dangers that Washington identifies within the region cannot be fully shared by Japan as long as Japan depends on the U.S. for its security."

Could you explain this please? It would seem to me that the reverse is true. That as long as Japan depends on the United States for it's security it is "forced" to share the dangers in the region as identified by the United States.

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the us treats japan like a slave. it's always 'do this, do that, etc.' all the asian countries are enjoying peaceful and amicable relations, not souring 'mr. number one on earth' pushing other countries around. just because they screwed up big time in iraq doesn't mean it's going to do the same in other parts of the world - no way. we don't want a deficit-in-a-black hole like the us.

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the us treats japan like a slave. it's always 'do this, do that, etc.' all the asian countries are enjoying peaceful and amicable relations, not souring 'mr. number one on earth' pushing other countries around. just because they screwed up big time in iraq doesn't mean it's going to do the same in other parts of the world - no way. we don't want a deficit-in-a-black hole like the us.

Actually, I don't think Japan wants to own up to any of their defense responsibilities. The only reason Japan can enjoy their status ans sucess now is because they have been comfortable under the protection of the US. If the rest of Japan took your side on this, you might as well call out the artisians to change the names on the maps and create the new flag for "West Korea".

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KenjiYamamoto that is a big chip you have on your shoulder mate.

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I'm so sick of South Korea and Japan bashing the US for helping then defend themselves. We should have pulled all US troops out of Korea and Japan a long time ago. If we had Japan and South Korea would now be part of the North's empire. But if we leave don't expect help in the future.

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OsssanULTRA

Could you explain this please? It would seem to me that the reverse is true. That as long as Japan depends on the United States for it's security it is "forced" to share the dangers in the region as identified by the United States.

As long as you let someone invincibly strong guard you, how can you be serious about your own safety?

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If my sources are correct from a few years ago, Australia is the focus of US attention. Japan would be far back from the needs of the US - support is the likely role. Besides, a large percentage of the US public wouldn't like to see Japan militarized greatly, got Article 9 that the Japanese public likes, and can provide a secure base for any future US operations - where ever that may be. It's not in cards, and former PM Abe found out.

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apecNetworks

So you admit and just watch how Yoshida Doctrine continues? How do you think about Mr. Ohta Nobumasa?

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"As long as you let someone invincibly strong guard you, how can you be serious about your own safety?"

Thanks for the rewording but it raises more questions than it answers. I can't imagine a more serious approach towards your own safety than to let someone invincibly strong guard you. Would having that invicibly strong someone NOT guard you improve your own security? Obviously not.

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"I'm so sick of South Korea and Japan bashing the US for helping then defend themselves"

I think you are confusing the resistance on the part of the local population, and I mean "local" to the US bases and ports, with the positions of the South Korean and Japanese governments. If they don't want us there all they have to do is say so. Subic Bay is proof.

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............And so this is the reason why your Japanese gov doesn't vote the US Mil out of Japan. See kids. It all comes full circle when you have faith and read on!

apecNetworks

The US hasn't been focused on the Aussies since Macarthur left there to reclaim the Philipines.

Netrek:

2 different things. Korea and Japan. Ok first, Korea gov needs the US there, the locals hate want the US out. Japan Gov wants the US in for the long haul, the locals just want the US Mil to stop victimizing their people. Apathetic about Mil staying.

And to our Philipine reporter: The PI Pres, wants the US back for Economic reasons, the PI Senate says No. The People? Been saying US please come back for decades. The locals always wanted us there, its the non-representative congress the PI has that voted the US out.. bring back Marcos!!! Just kidding.

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That as long as Japan depends on the United States for it's security it is "forced" to share the dangers in the region as identified by the United States.

I love this one. Its as though, if the US just left all the regional geo-political problems Japan has would just dry up. Yes, friends the US came and wouldn't no matter how much we 2-3 guys said so..

If the US leaves all will be well with Japan and no one would even complain about a little whaling once a year.

Look man! Just buy our cars and stop trying to make us take responsiblity for our own actions... Oh also! Can we have a seat on the UN security counsel... please?

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OsssanULTRA

VoXman said it right by pointing out your argument in a different light. "As long as Japan depends on the U.S. for its security, it is FORCED to share the dangers in the region as identified by the U.S." Being forced to share something without being serious about it has been the politics of this country.

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To Seiharinokaze:

So you admit and just watch how Yoshida Doctrine continues? How do you think about Mr. Ohta Nobumasa?

As far as Japanese Foreign Policy is concerned, the Fukuda Doctrine is the NATURAL progression from the Yoshida Doctrine. After WWII, there was in Japan a GREAT force behind all policies implemented at that time, and it has continued up to today. I understand what has occurred, and help it along when necessary. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Mr. Ohta Nobumasa:

I have no problem w/ what he said:

A senior Japanese official, introducing the report, said that a strike against foreign bases from which missiles were aimed at Japan would not be a violation of Article 9 of Japan's postwar "peace constitution" forbidding the country from waging war overseas.

"We can exercise our right to defense against enemy facilities once it's confirmed that the enemy has embarked on an action to attack us," said Nobumasa Ohta of the Defense Agency. "Striking back is not unconstitutional."

Asked if such remarks might be seen as a warning for North Korea, Mr. Ohta replied, "Theoretically."

Analysts saw the defense report — and Mr. Ohta's comments — as underlining a basic shift in official Japanese thinking toward defense.

http://www.iht.com/articles/1999/07/29/japan.1.t.php

Cold War has ended, Japan is "influential" in the world, but does need to upgrade the SDF capabilities to counter dangers in the region. The ability to retaliate against a danger is a strong deterrent in military affairs. I disagreed w/ the nuclear option presented, but could see the need for a 4th/5th Generation fighter to back up what Mr. Ohta Nobumasa said. W/out the nuclear option b/c of Article 9, a fighter plane that can go in and strike w/ minimal threats fits in well in the Japanese political landscape.

The US doesn't know this, but the ghost of SCAP is still around. There was a "Master Plan", and, w/ luck, it may be realized.

Ciao.

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apecNetworks

The US doesn't know this, but the ghost of SCAP is still around. There was a "Master Plan", and, w/ luck, it may be realized.

Thanks for your reply. But doesn't the U.S. know it? It's overdue in the Master Plan?

Though I do not necessarily agree with the nuclear option, I rather tend to share what Mr. Ohta thinks about this country. He says Japan is a dependency on the U.S. rather than her ally. Dumping the basics of diplomacy and security to the U.S. is the root cause for dereliction and corruption of the bureaucracy and politicians of this country. However I doubt if letting Japan be serious about herself is also in the Master Plan.

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To Seiharinokaze:

But doesn't the U.S. know it? It's overdue in the Master Plan?

The "Master Plan" was cobbled together sometime around 1952. Prefer to keep this info in very general terms. The operative phrase is, "there WAS a Master Plan". How it evolved lacked the authority and resources of the US Govt. after Gen. MacArthur was relieved of command. There are people aware that "something" is amiss in the Asia-Pacific, but can't discern it. I know they know from the movie, "Tomorrow Never Dies", b/c when Bond talks to Elliot Carver in Vietnam Hdqtrs., the comment about SAC was directed to me, and me only. Also, from that discussion, they were more or less telling me the situation is "insane". They are not happy. Thus, I have to watch what I say.

In reply to your question, US knows of its existence, but can't dismantle it b/c most participants are not visible. They have tried.

However I doubt if letting Japan be serious about herself is also in the Master Plan.

Actually, the US has changed so much since the 1950's, the Master Plan is in direct opposition to US Foreign Policy, and considerable neutralization is occurring. There are people high up in the Japanese Govt. who are perplexed at how odd things are happening. It is this "odd situation" that is allowing Japan to find some space to manuever. In a way, the US is going up against Gen. MacArthur/Gen. Eisenhower and they were definately Commanders.

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Apec what the hell are you talking about?

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Japan will make a better ally once her military is restored and her national will is completely independent.

For many years, America kept Japan under her umbrella mostly out of fear, having learned to respect Japan's potential to project force. Post-WWII, US protection made rearming "unnecessary" for Japan. But we are all quickly reaching the point where it is no longer viable to conduct policy based on historical fears.

Although Japan is not nuclear, many in the US know that Japan could probably become nuclear very quickly with very little trouble. Meanwhile, the US finds herself facing an increasingly multi-polar world. Every knows that a powerful and capable ally is better than a demoralized one that acts only out of a sense of obligation. It's also true that in today's world, being perceived as a "puppet" of the US increases that nation's vulnerability to global terrorism. If Japan cannot stand strong, US regional interests will be profoundly jeopardized.

Many in Washington fear this new paradigm shift. But the fact is that the US can no longer afford to manage the world. Persisting in unipolar thinking is only edging us toward unnecessary crisis. If the "Master Plan" involves "risking" Japanese ascendency, thereby safeguarding the survival of our grandchildren, then I'm all for it.

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I don't see the US having any set plan regarding Japan or Asia nowadays.

They will want to wait and see how all those different forces will work themselves out and form a new Asia. Even then, what the US or any country ultimately want for an ally or a neighbor is a stable democracy. And how Japan deals with China and Russia on her own should be a great interest to the US foreign policy makers more than being a good poodle.

If Japan can act mature and responsible promoting peace in Asia, I'm sure the US is more than willing to grant a lot more trust and independence. And I hope Japan will become a valuable ally in this manner.

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Is Japan's perspective on her security at in this region always the same as that of the US? Dangers that Washington identifies about Iran, for example, can really be fully shared by Japan? In a sense, doesn't Japanese leadership share some sympathy for American military leaders?

http://www.slate.com/id/2176122/

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As Japan works to promote closer ties with China and Russia, the funding and the scale of the US forces within Japan should be reduced proportionally. As for Iran and other Isramic nations, Japan does not have any of religious, political,cultural or historical problems with them as the US, Israel or Eourope do, it will be foolish for Japan to take sides. The treaty Japan has with the US is not an oath or a code of gangsters and the world doesn't need to split into two over every issue.

The US should welcome and promote a helthy and independent Japan, if it really cares about peace and prosperity in Asia rather than hegemony, or Japanese public may stop supporting US as their leader and a close ally.

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This would be considered "radical" today, but I would implement it if it could be implemented.

Yet, the recent comments by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer that Tokyo isn’t doing enough at a time when “the Japanese people are increasingly apprehensive about military threats emanating from adversaries or potential adversaries”.

The Japanese SDF buy over market rates for the carrier, Kitty Hawk, and keep it stationed as Yokosuka w/ MSDF spending several years refurbishing it - lots of jobs for university graduates. Let Gov. Ishihara name it and he might promote to his backers. Then, the ASDF go and start bidding on the several "blueprints" in somebodies garbage can of a rejected 4th/5th Generation fighter, preferably that comes w/ a prototype - bidding premium bucks. Now, integrate that plane w/ the refurbishing carrier and Japan has new capabilities - no task force, just the carrier. Anyone complains, just tell them that if this isn't done, it would be done by the US. I would go for that.

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mr. schieffer and his number one country wants to create fear and further their own military occupation of a country in a region far away from the us. shore up defenses? yes, but in the long run, the asians will combine.

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schieffer wants to create fear in order to divide the region. who exactly is one to fear but mr. schieffer?

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