|Ishihara Naoki. Japan-U.S. Alliance in the Global Perspective|
Naoki Ishihara, Ritsumeikan University
Japan-U.S. Alliance in the Global PerspectiveThe foundation of the Japan-U.S. alliance was laid out when Japan regained its sovereign power and signed the Japan-U.S. Mutual Security Treaty in 1951. While the basic nature of the alliance of the two countries remains unchanged, the scope of the roles that each party plays in the context of the alliance has changed. This paper examines the nature and historical evolution of the bilateral relationship between Japan and the United States, and presents future prospect especially in the global context. The paper is divided into three sections.
I. The Alliance during the Cold War
During the occupation period the United States and its allies drastically changed Japan's political, economic and social systems in order to avoid the resurgence of militarism. Moreover, the United States, in particular, introduced liberal democracy and market economy into Japan, and made sure that Japan stays as a strategic partner of the U.S in the context of emerging cold war confrontation. The reformation of the country and strategic alliance with the U.S. was also welcome by Japan, since it enables the country to contain its military capability at the minimum level and concentrate its limited resources to rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country.
Faced with the Korean War Japan was urged by the U.S. to form a modest National Police Force to fill domestic security gap created as a result of the deployment of the occupation forces in Korean peninsula. It later evolved to the creation of the Self-Defense Force (SDF) in 1952. SDF, however, restrained itself solely for a self -defense purpose, and it was never mobilized in an overseas operation until 1992.
The Japan-U.S. Mutual Security Treaty, which was revised to the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, has been a pillar of the alliance of the two countries throughout the post World War II years. In the security pact the U.S. is committed to defend Japan against external threat to its security, and, in exchange Japan allows the U.S. to use facilities and bases in Japan. The basic framework set then remained unchanged throughout the post-war strategic relationship between the two countries. With regard to a potential nuclear threat from other countries Japan put itself under the nuclear umbrella of the United States, and adopted the policy of so-called Three Non-nuclear Principles. Strong pacifism sentiment widely prevailing among the public helped Japan to maintain these policies.
At the same time the alliance between the two countries is not limited to the strategic front, and commonly shared political, economic and social values of two societies further strengthened the partnership of the two countries. In the United States perspective the alliance also served as a strategy for the maintenance of stability in the Asia and Pacific region against the backdrop of the confrontation with the Soviet Union.
However, rapid economic growth of Japan and resulting economic and trade frictions between the two countries in the 1970's and 1980's put challenges to the alliance. The extreme trade imbalance in favor of Japan during the period urged Washington to review its traditional policy toward Japan, and started to request more balanced burden sharing in the strategic front. The changing international environment including the end of the cold war prompted the two countries to redefine and adjust the nature of strategic partnership. A clear turning point came in the Gulf War in 1990-1991, and it tested Japan whether or not it has a political will to play more active role in international peace and security.
II. The Alliance after the end of the Cold War
The lessons of the Gulf War in 1991, through which Japan realized that financial contributions alone was not enough to meet the challenges of the maintenance of international peace and security. It leads Japan to adopt the International Peace Law, enabling the SDF to participate in United Nations Peacekeeping Operation in Cambodia in 1992 for the first time in its history. From then on the SDF kept participating in various U.N. Peacekeeping operations in Mozambique, East Timor, Golan Heights, Haiti and Sudan. The JDS also took part in humanitarian assistance activities in Zaire after the tragic aftermath of Rwanda in 1995.
In addition in response to further U.S. request Japan decided to dispatch its Maritime Self-Defense Force to the Indian Ocean to support anti-terrorism military operations in Afghanistan. It also sent SDF to Iraq in 2003 to join international efforts for the postwar reconstruction of the country. SDF is currently engaged in humanitarian activities in a large scale in the Philippines. The gradual evolution of SDF‘s roles in the international community and overseas activities opened up a new frontier for Japanese strategic policies. While it has to be noted that they have been basically undertaken in the form of the response to the request made by the U.S., it can be interpreted as a new strategic partnership emerging in the alliance.
III. Future Prospect
Prime Minster Abe and his administration are keen to review and redefine the interpretation of the notion of "collective self-defense" in light of article nine of constitution, which could make Japan play more active strategic and military roles in the context of the Japan-U.S. alliance. At the same time it has to be kept in mind that a couple of underlying conditions which still limit the range of policy options of Japan from the view point of both Japanese and U.S. strategic interests as well as international environment in Asian region.
From Japanese perspective, pending the outcome of the attempt to redefine interpretation of the notion of collective security, it seems unrealistic and unlikely that Japan drastically shift its policies to joint U.S. military operations overseas as an ally. In this connection it has to be reminded that even SDF has never participated in the monitoring cease fire and/or assisting DDR in UN peacekeeping operations, and contains its roles to supporting functions such as engineering activities. Although SDF can perform these activities even under the current International Peace Law, if it wishes to do so, it has been taking a very cautious approach. While there is no doubt that re-interpretation of the notion of collective self-defense would help Japan widen its policy options legally and theoretically, practical policy choices of more active strategic engagement in the context of the alliance is still a distant goal.
In this connection Japan's wider strategic and military roles even under a possible new interpretation of self-defense is likely to be limited to the supporting roles of U.S. military operations, especially in the North East Asia where threats of growing expansion of Chine and the nuclearization of North Korea exist. In order to achieve more balanced partnership in the Japan-U.S. alliance Japan should seek more aggressive policies in a broader global context in response to a wide range of emerging security threats of the international community, namely, terrorism, cyber attack, regional and civil conflicts and related humanitarian crises. Japan can and should do a lot more in these unconventional types of security challenges, which are generally characterized as "human security". It would definitely contribute more balanced responsibility sharing as well as stable and sustainable strategic partnership in the alliance of the two countries at least in the near future.
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