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Let Japan help defend America - and itself

13 Comments

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is now following through on actions laid out in his recent bold speech calling for Japan to defend allies who might be under attack.

But wait, you may ask, hasn't the United States had a mutual security treaty with Japan for more than half a century?

Well, not quite. Yes, Washington has had a mutual defense-security treaty with Tokyo since 1951. But Japan is not committed to defending the United States or any of its armed forces. In fact, Japanese forces are prohibited from helping Washington in time of war - even if the war is in defense of Japan.

This goes back to the postwar U.S. Occupation of Japan and the creation of the Japanese constitution. Determined that Tokyo would never again pose a threat to its Asian neighbors or the United States, Occupation leader General Douglas MacArthur and his staff were sympathetic to Japanese pacifists' proposal to include a no-war making article in the constitution, then being written with oversight by the Occupation authorities. This worked with the policies of then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, who wanted to focus on rebuilding the Japanese economy - without the distraction of creating a major defense force.

So Japan's constitution prohibits engagement in war. Despite using the term "mutual" to describe the U.S.-Japan agreement, there has never been anything mutual about it. It has always been a unilateral U.S. guarantee of Japan's defense.

This has long suited the U.S. foreign policy leadership, both Democratic and Republican. Washington has preferred to direct a forward defense against possible threats instead of relying on possibly pesky allies. It uses Japan as its most important forward base - particularly for the Seventh Fleet, which patrols Asian and South Pacific waters. The U.S. security community has therefore largely supported Japan's pacifist policies - while quietly urging that the constitutional interpretation be broadened to allow more support for U.S. and U.N. peacekeeping efforts.

This may have been the right policy for Washington to pursue when the U.S. economy made up about 50 percent of the global gross domestic product; when U.S. military dominance in the Asia-Pacific region was absolute, and when U.S. and Japanese interests more or less coincided. But that situation no longer prevails.

The U.S. economy is now roughly 22% of global GDP, on the way to perhaps 15%. Relative military power has also shifted. The Pentagon, for example, would not today sail two aircraft carriers into the Taiwan Straits between China and Taiwan as it did in 1995, at a time of tension between Taiwan and mainland China. Nor do U.S. and Japanese interests coincide to the same extent.

Consider, the unoccupied Senkaku Islands, administered by Japan but whose Japanese ownership is disputed by China. These barren rocks are of no strategic or economic value to the United States. Yet, Washington could find itself going to war with China over them because of the peculiarities of the Japanese constitution and the U.S.-Japan security relationship.

Abe's moves are likely to be greeted with suspicion, even violent opposition, by many in Asia. Some in the United States may also resist it. This is partly because of the still-festering wounds of World War Two and political expedience in Asia. But it is also due to U.S. concerns about Abe's past as a rightwing, somewhat anti-American politician.

These concerns, however, should not impede U.S. support for the prime minister's proposals. Washington does not have to agree with everything Abe says in order to support him when he says something that makes sense.

There is a growing risk that Washington may be drawn into confrontation with Beijing as a result of parochial issues between China and some U.S. allies. Japan, by taking greater responsibility for its own defense and that of its allies, would be moving to decrease this risk of having to put more Americans in harm's way.

Washington should not only support this - it should welcome it. Despite the inevitable howls from some Asian capitals.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014. Click For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp

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13 Comments
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Wait until young Japanese start being killed in far away lands. Then see how much support this gets.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Then why should young americans die defending Japan

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Yes i agree that Japan should be able to defend Japan and also overseas and if they die overseas then its fate not the PM fault.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japan as any other nation on the planet has the right to defend itself and defend itself well.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There is a saying: "History repeats itself". China has never in history attacked and occupied America. China has never attacked and occupied Japan. But America and Japan have attacked and occupied China. Like what Singapore thinks it is good that China prospers economically because we all can benefit from it. Let us appreciate this period of peace and prosperity. It is far better than war.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Marilyn Marie Lee:

I second your comments. Totally agree. In a few decades, China has brought more real development to Africa than two centuries of European colonial exploitation.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The problem with your approach, Marilyn, is the PRC has attacked the UN (Korean War), has attacked Vietnam (Sino-Vietnam War), and has attacked and continues to occupy Tibet. The same economic prosperity that you say "helps the world" gives China more ability to throw it's weight around. The chickenhawks in the CCP cannot be allowed to even consider that they can take something from the democratic countries in order to keep their population suppressed. That would be contrary to peace because it would allow them to stay in power longer.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

is the PRC has attacked the UN (Korean War),

Wow. Let's add a little perspective since scipantheist seems oblivious: The US had supported the Nationalists in the civil war and was arming Taiwan to the teeth: (think what was like Cuba to them). While in Korea, right-wingers in the U.S. were pressing for MacArthur to invade China and carry the war all the way to Beijing, using nukes if need be. And it's China that's throwing its weight around. Riiiight.

So, since the early 1950s, we have the Korean war, Tibet and a couple of border skirmishes with Vietnam. How many places since the early 1950s has the US thrown its weight around the world?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Some more perspective for you, yabits: PRC intervened before MacArthur made his threat. You can't just site "right-wingers" for an act of war. Korea would be united and democratic if not for the PRC. That is why PRC acts of war are of global importance.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Some more perspective for you, yabits: PRC intervened before MacArthur made his threat.

The Chinese are not dumb. They saw a hostile America arming Taiwan and supporting the Chiang regime, which was anything but free and democratic. Anti-communists in America saw the pushback of the Korean communists as a way to draw China into an expanded war. Truman certainly did not want an expanded war, but the right-wingers (like McCarthy) who opposed Truman did. Long before MacArthur made his threat, right-wing rhetoric had paved the way.

China has never in its long history been interested in the kind of global hegemony that America and former Soviet union practiced. The three cases you cited all involve matters on China's borders.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The kids buried after Tiannamen Squares massacre who dreampt of a free China - not under the boot and gun of communism, would surely cry at the myopia here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Abe’s moves are likely to be greeted with suspicion, even violent opposition, by many in Asia. Some in the United States may also resist it. This is partly because of the still-festering wounds of World War Two and political expedience in Asia.

Japan's neighbors are completely justified to remain skeptical and cautious. There are still very strong elements within Japan that want to paint it as the victim of WWII and not the brutal aggressor it was, and they know it to have been. The "still-festering" wounds are there because Japan has only atoned in a way that it saw fit for itself and not for the nations and people it wronged.

There is a growing risk that Washington may be drawn into confrontation with Beijing as a result of parochial issues between China and some U.S. allies. Japan, by taking greater responsibility for its own defense and that of its allies, would be moving to decrease this risk of having to put more Americans in harm’s way.

G-d forbid. Who are the "allies" calling for Japan to provide for their defense? Who is this writer trying to kid?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What a bunch of goobledy gook. Japan can defend itself and has an SDF for the task. America needs no help defending itself whatsoever.

All this is about helping America with their profit wars, like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I wonder who paid Clyde to write this tripe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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