Saturday, May 27, 2006

Book Review: Eternal Japan-US Alliance

I would like to write a post based on a Japanese opinion leader’s viewpoint this time. The book is entitled “Eternal Japan-US Alliance: Nothing Wrong with Being America’s Tributary State!” or "日米永久同盟:アメリカの「属国」でなにが悪い!" (Kobunsha Press 光文社, by Hidemi Nagao 長尾秀美, Public Relations Officer of US Navy in Japan). This Japanese book is recommendable to understand the US-Japanese alliance , because it is lucid.

Nagao questions the vital point on the US-Japanese alliance in the future.

Is Japan willing to continue alliance with the United States?

Should the United States declare abrogation of the US-Japanese alliance, what would Japan do? Why doesn’t Prime Minister Koizumi face this vital agenda without considering any countermeasures? While People call the Prime Minister “Bush’s lapdog”, he is not interested in strengthening the US-Japanese alliance at all. I wonder why he does not care about it.

Some Japanese opinion leaders criticize that Japan is becoming a “tributary state of the United States” under current transformation of US military organizations. However, Hidemi Nagao refutes their ideas flatly, and insists that the Japan can never win trust from the global community without staunch alliance with the United States. Therefore, he says that Japan must be “a trustworthy tributary state” to the United States. He rejects any kind of alternatives other than closer US-Japan partnership. His arguments are clear and insightful.

In the Introduction, Nagao refutes a commonly believed fiction among Japanese people, “Unprecedented US-Japanese Friendship between Bush and Koizumi.” Under the transformation of US forces, transfer of Okinawa troops has emerged a crucial agenda between Japan and the United States. However, he criticizes that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi cares nothing but pleasing Okinawa citizens to get Futenma airbase returned to Japan. While American side talks about basic concepts of military transformation, Japanese side is not interested in it, according to Nagao.

Surprisingly enough, Prime Minister Koizumi canceled the US-Japanese summit last September, because he was reluctant to talk on critical issues like military transformation and BSE beef problem. His attitude is questionable, because the United States was prepared for this state visit. Only “Shukan Bunshun 週刊文春” (one of weekly journals, widely circulated in Japan) took up this news among Japanese media. Also, Koizumi refused to attend the 60th memorial ceremony of VE Day in the World War Ⅱ, because Japan was a loser in this war. I feel resented to hear this. Japan would have been able to demonstrate that it shared common historical perception with the United States, and liberate itself from the postwar framework.

In Chapter 1, the author blames the media tend to exaggerate misbehavior by US soldiers. Also, he mentions widespread misunderstandings among Japanese people on the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement. In this chapter, he emphasizes that the US Forces in Japan play the key role to maintain peace and stability from East Asia to the Indian Ocean. Most importantly, he insists that Japan establish real trustworthy relations with the United States as the “most reliable tributary state.” That is, people need to be realist to admit that Japan cannot act on its own, and it is vital for Japan to keep the US-Japanese alliance as the crown jewelry in foreign policy. Of course, he does not advocate blind follwership to US policy. Japan must establish a mutual trust between the United States, based on common universal values of freedom and democracy.

From Chapter 2 to Chapter 5, the author comments on history of Japanese diplomacy, particularly US-Japanese relations and the Anglo-Japanese alliance. We can learn a lot from history, particularly how to make the alliance effective. The author says the alliance must be bilateral, not unilateral. This is why the Anglo-Japanese alliance was abolished. Since then, Japan had no defenders, and ran into a fanatic policy of building up the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Zone. I am concerned that Japanese politicians say that the alliance is necessary because Japan must be “protected by the United States.” British leaders advocate more bilateral alliance.

In Chapter 6, Nagao argues that the United Nations not a reliable peacemaker. As he comments, the United Nations does not have peacemaking capability at all. He analyses the reason for this, and suggests that Japan withdraw from the UN. He says that UN membership does not pay off for Japan, considering its budget contribution to the United Nations and its position in this organization. Rather, he says, Japan should use this money for bilateral aid or small business assistance. Furthermore, Nagao condemns China’s high-handed diplomacy in the United Nations: less budget contribution to the UN than Japan, receiving ODA from Japan, but using veto to impose its national interest through the United Nations.

What should Japan do after withdrawal from the UN? In Chapter 7, Nagao proposes to extend the US-Japanese alliance for 100 years in order to manage threats from the Chinese Empire and Russia. Britain and Australia can join this alliance to make the Far East Democracy Peacemaking Coalitions, he says.

His idea in the final chapter is controversial, but the author is consistent in his thorough realism to admit that Japan cannot enjoy peace and prosperity without the umbrella of American hegemony. I agree with him in his contempt to the United Nations and blind pacifism. Finally, it is noteworthy that the author emphasizes the importance of common universal values as the foundation of the Trans-pacific alliance. Otherwise, he says, Japanese people will live in peace and stability under the Chinese Empire. While Japanese rightists get nervous to Chinese threat, they do not care enough about common universal values between the two biggest democracies in the Asia Pacific region.