Is the US-Japan Alliance Contributing to Security? Whose Security?
John de Boer (Japan Fellow, Stanford University; Research Associate, GLOCOM)
The Yomiuri Shimbun featured an opinion article written by the chairman of the Central Japan Railway Co., Yoshiyuki Kasai, on August 8, 2004. The crux of his argument was that Japan and the United States needed to increase their level of interdependence, particularly when it comes to ensuring each other's peace and security. Judging from the construction of Kasai's article, it seems as though his comments were meant as a rebuttal to the criticism of the U.S. and Japan launched by the mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, on August 6 during the ceremony commemorating those who died as a result of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima fifty-nine years ago.
Speaking ahead of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, mayor Akiba condemned the US government for its "egocentric worldview" and called upon the Japanese government to "defend the peace Constitution" and to work to "rectify the trend toward open acceptance of war and nuclear weapons" (Xinhua News Agency, August 6, 2004). According to media reports, Prime Minister Koizumi, who spoke after Akiba, received a "lukewarm" welcome at the annual atomic bomb memorial in Hiroshima. The public attending the ceremony was characterized as "frustrated" by the government's move to revise the pacifist constitution and its lack of initiative in the area of nuclear non-proliferation.
Mayor Akiba's opinions resonated with this public, which believes that another world is possible and indeed desirable. In contrast, Mr. Kasai and Prime Minister Koizumi spoke for those who seem relatively satisfied with the direction in which their world is heading. Prime Minister Koizumi can live with nuclear neighbors in North Korea and China so long as Japan remains under a US nuclear umbrella and maintains ‘virtual deterrence'. In fact, his cabinet members are willing to make deals with recent nuclear proliferators so long as it furthers their political and strategic agenda. A case in point was witnessed on 11 August, two days after Japan and the world mourned the deaths caused by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, when Japan's foreign minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told reporters that her government was resuming its aid to Pakistan and that this resumption had not been linked with any preconditions of Pakistan signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. She was quoted as stating that, "recognizing the long term friendly relations [between Pakistan and Japan] I have instructed my staff to consider resumption of the yen-loan to assist Pakistan's need for socio-economic development." She also added that aid from Japan would be in response to Pakistan's contributions in the war against terror (Associated Press of Pakistan, August 11, 2004). Japan has already given a $300 million US loan to Pakistan and has rescheduled another $4.5 billion loan. Japan is likely to make similar concessions to India when its trade minister visits there on 24 August.
While people such as Akiba's question Japan's commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and urge the country to do more, the government and its supporters argue that the US led war on terror is contributing to that end. They posit that the war on al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups prevents them from acquiring and deploying weapons of mass destruction. This may in part be true, however, that a nuclear scientist from Pakistan managed to sell nuclear technology to North Korea, and potentially other countries/agents, poses the question as to why we are not doing more to prevent this activity and whether we should be rewarding the Pakistani government for failing to stop this proliferation. That North Korea's nuclear program is proceeding in impunity is another concern that the US led war on terror is not addressing. Certainly efforts have been made by both the US and Japan to bring a halt to North Korea's nuclear activities, however, these have failed. The only potentially effective initiative taken by the US and Japan to ensure their mutual security is their work on deploying the anti-ballistic missile defense shield. Unfortunately, the actual effectiveness of this reactive strategy will not be understood until a missile has been launched. Meanwhile, in America, fears that a future terrorist attack could involve nuclear weapons are increasing. Nicholas Kristof's column in the New York Times on August 10 attested to that fact.
From this perspective increased interdependence between Japan and the US, as suggested by Kasai, may not help the two protect themselves from nuclear attack. The world is more troubled today than it was four years ago and US-Japan collaboration over the past years have done little to change that reality. The Japanese government needs to recognize that its present and future state is interconnected with the fate of not only the US but of the world at large. That significant progress on practically every front (economic, security, political) has not been made should concern decision makers and prompt them to re-evaluate their policy orientation.