Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NATO’s Partnership with Pacific Nations: Toward a Global and Multilateral US-Japanese Alliance

In the post 9-11 world, NATO is exploring global security cooperation beyond the Euro-Atlantic region. In the Pacific area, four countries, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea, are named strategic partners. Among the above nations, Japan draws the highest expectations from Europeans. My fellow Japanese citizens, whether right or left, should take pride in this vital fact.

Currently NATO News Release has mentioned 7 times of senior official (including cabinet ministers) meetings for Japan, while 5 for Australia, 4 for New Zealand, and none for South Korea. For further understanding of security cooperation with Pacific nations, NATO quotes a keynote address by the Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and an article in NATO Review by Professor Masako Ikegami at Stockholm University in Sweden. In addition, the volume of information on Japan exceeds far more than those of other Pacific partners.

Such high expectations and unrivaled trust by Europeans are consequences of staunch US-Japanese alliance. The US-Japanese alliance is beyond a bilateral security deal. This is an anchor of postwar regime change in Japan, and a keystone of liberal democracy promotion from Hawaii to Suez. Despite constitutional constraints, Japan has been the most important ally in the Asia Pacific for the United States, particularly, providing the largest and the most sophisticated bases for US forces.

When Foreign Minister (then) Taro Aso visited NATO headquarters in Brussels on May 4 in 2006, he mentioned common values and ideals between Japan and NATO (See the transcript of his speech). So did Prime Minister (then) Shinzo Abe on his visit to Brussels headquarter on January 12, 2007 (See the video 1 and 2). Current Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is going to Europe early next month to meet with British, German, French, and Italian leaders to prepare for the Lake Toya Summit. I hope he will also emphasize common strategic and ideal standpoints with European leaders.

In order to understand NATO-Japanese relations, let me talk about some references. Professor Masako Ikegami, Director of the Center for the Pacific Asia Studies at Stockholm University, advocates developing NATO-Japanese collaboration, because critical threats in East Asia pose unprecedented challenges to global security. In addition she expresses concerns with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (“NATO and Japan: Strengthening Asian Stability”; NATO Review; Summer 2007). Ikegami says Shinzo Abe’s arrival to NATO headquarters in January 2007, which is the first visit by Japanese prime minister, was an epoch making event.

Ikegami mentions that Japan has begun to get involved in non-combat operations with NATO members in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea since 9-11. She says that NATO and Japan share common security agendas, such as the War on Terror, WMD non-proliferation in Asia, and the rise of illiberal powers led by China and Russia.

As NATO is transforming for operations beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, Japan needs to develop strategic collaboration with the Alliance. Ikegami points out that while the Cold War has already gone in Europe, there are still war frontlines in East Asia: the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait. NATO-Japan cooperation will help WMD non-proliferation in North Korea through the Khan Network. Regarding the Taiwan issue, she argues that NATO support will strengthen the United States and Japan against Chinese expansionism.

In addition, Masako Ikegami warns that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has the potential to become a main adversary to both Japan and NATO. Since 9-11, China and Russia has been upgrading SCO (current members: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) to expand their influence in Central Asia, and challenge our liberal world order.

Ikegami presents the following recommendations to Japan and NATO, in order to manage those global and Pacific threats.

Steps for Japan:
1. Reinforce US-Japanese security cooperation;
2. Increase partnership with NATO to ensure credible deterrence;
3. Improve the international security environment by increasing support to peacekeeping operations;
4. Contribute to peacemaking with economic and humanitarian aid; and
5. remain firmly committed to international arms control and disarmament schemes.

Steps for NATO:
1. Active partnership for global "security-making" with countries that share fundamental Euro-Atlantic values; and
2. Association for the purposes of engagement and confidence-building with countries that do not adhere to Alliance principles, but are nevertheless significant actors in international or regional security.

Under such a scheme, Japan would fit into the first category, while Russia (or eventually China, if invited) could fit into the second. NATO could thus enhance confidence-building measures with some countries, while acting more vigorously for conflict-prevention with those close partners that share basic Euro-Atlantic values and commitments.

For this objective, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Japan on December 13 and 14 last year. At the press conference, Secretary General Hoop Scheffer mentioned NATO’s partnerships with Ukraine, Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East in the post Cold War era.
Regarding NATO-Japan relations, the Secretary General pointed out that Japanese help was indispensable for NATO operations in the Balkans. He expressed high expectations for Japan as an important member of the G-8 and the second largest economy. The most important issue between Japan and NATO is Afghanistan. As I have mentioned in the previous post on the Bucharest Meeting, success in Afghanistan will be an important step for NATO activities beyond the Euro Atlantic area.

Currently, debates on the anti terrorism special measures law at the Japanese diet has been suspended. Hoop Scheffer was cautious enough not to provoke constitutional arguments between Japanese ruling party and the opposition. To my regret, both sides spend too much time on meaningless debates about legal details and definition of a vague word international cooperation. Policy debate should be more concrete. NATO’s success in Afghanistan is Japan’s vital national interest.

Also, I must refute isolationists’ argument that Japan stand aloof from the West, because people in the Islamic world cherish good images to Japanese as opposed to imperialist Americans and Europeans. However, a previous post, entitled “Five Questions on Islamic Radicalism”, proves they are wrong.
Apparently, Japan should be at the heart of the Western alliance. Like it or not, the Japanese has been enjoying the privilege of honorary white status thanks to the US-Japanese alliance. Never forget this in the era of a global US-Japanese alliance.

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