The US embassy in Japan hosted a policy forum, entitled “The Future of the US-Japanese Alliance: Security in East Asia and Nuclear Policy”, on November 29 at the American Center in Tokyo. The primary agenda of this forum is how the United States and Japan can achieve their common policy goal of “the world without nuclear weapons”, while replying on nuclear security umbrella. The peaceful rise of China and rogue behaviors by North Korea pose critical challenges to US-Japanese common security initiatives.
Panelists from both American and Japanese sides represented senior and young generations. Politicians, bureaucrats, academics, journalists, and students attended this event. The following experts presented their viewpoints.
Ralph Cossa (USA) President, Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Brad Glosserman (USA) Executive Director, Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Nobumasa Akiyama (Japan) Associate Professor, Hitotsubashi University
Daniel Kliman (USA) Visiting Fellow, Center for a New American Security
Wakana Mukai (Japan) Researcher, Ocean Policy Research Foundation
Regarding the nature of the alliance, Brad Glosserman stressed reciprocal partnership between Japan and the United States. While US military presence in Japan ensures peace and stability in the region, Japan offers substantial help to US forces, he mentioned. Glosserman said that the American side is ready to accept more equal alliance with Japan, but Japan needs to define its own position in the world.
The threat of China and North Korea is growing precipitously. The peaceful rise of China poses long term uncertainties as its intention for military build-up is unclear. Nobumasa Akiyama pointed out that current US-Chinese rivalries were more complicated than Cold War US-Soviet rivalries, because China’s strategic interests and armed force structures are asymmetric to those of the United States. While China declares “No first use” nuclear policy, its missiles are targeted at Japan and Taiwan. It is quite difficult to apply MAD to China, unlike the Soviet Union in the Cold War era. The problem is that China is building up its military power in accordance with its rapid economic growth.
As to North Korea, he says that nuclear deterrence does not work for a small scale aggression like Yeongpyeong this time, because none of Kim Jong-il’s adversaries including South Korea, the United States, and Japan do not want to escalate the combat. Some alternatives needs be considered, but China is reluctant to pressure North Korea. Therefore, I think that we be prepared for the last option, that is, regime change.
At the Q & A session, presenters and attendants had lively interactions, and many insightful questions came from opinion leaders and students. I would like to mention a couple of them.
Regarding nonproliferation and regime change, Ben Hashimoto of Japanese Democratic Party, Member of the House of Representatives, asked a question why the United States had attacked Iraq but not North Korea. It is a pity that panelists talked primarily on retaliatory military capability of both countries through nuclear and conventional weapons. They did not mention Saddam Hussein’s expansionist ambition. Saddam invaded Kuwait and Iran, and mass murdered Kurdish minority with toxic gas. The Baathist regime sought dominant position in the Arab world, and 1991 invasion to Kuwait was inspired by nationalization of Suez Canal under Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. The Baathist Party denies Israel. I wish guest speakers had mentioned ideological danger of Baathism.
A journalist of Asahi TV mentioned that it was discouraging for Japanese people because President Barack Obama had not visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki during his stay in Japan for APEC summit in Yokohama. But I do not agree with him, in view of the Senkaku dispute with China, tension in the Korean Peninsula, and the surprise visit to Kunashiri Island by President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. As security in East Asia is critically fragile, the Japanese public, particularly pro-American conservatives will be worried if US president appears weak and apologetic. Those who are critical to a “triumphant” America from the fall of Berlin Wall to the outburst of the Global Financial Crisis will be pleased if Obama visits Hiroshima or Nagasaki. But remember. Most of them are leftists and inherently anti-American. Priorities will be given to managing current threats, rather than showing sweet and humanistic attitudes.
New START was another issue of high attention. Guest speakers unanimously criticized Senator Jon Kyl for refusing to ratify this treaty with Russia. However, as Ex-Ambassador to the UN John Bolton points out, verification process under the new treaty is looser than that of START Ⅱ by George Bush Sr. and Boris Yeltin. Is czarism nationalist Russia today more trustworthy than pro-Western liberal Russia in those days? This is a vital question that should have been discussed at the symposium.
I would like to mention my questions at the Q & A session. One was how to make Russia and China responsible stakeholders in nonproliferation, in view of the clash between Western democracies and autocratic powers. Guest speakers replied that each country had its own national security priority, and nuclear nonproliferation was not necessarily a critical issue for some states. Typically, China and Russia do not share Western concern on Iran and North Korea. In such cases, panelists said that we must lead them to understand business with rogue proliferators would harm their interests. Daniel Kliman added that national interest of individual states is important for nonproliferation to dangerous regimes. For example, he mentioned that democratic Brazil and Turkey tried to meddle Iran and the global community.
The other question was on the Indo-Japanese nuclear deal. This is a turning point of Japanese foreign policy, considering anti-nuclear sentiment among the public. Wakana Mukai replied that Japan did not define its basic stance to nonproliferation in the Indian subcontinent rather than revised its foreign policy. She said that Japan just followed American policy for India, and chose business interests over nonproliferation. These are vital points. But I would like to mention that other nations, such as France, Germany, Britain, Canada, and South Korea signed their deals from similar perspectives. Even Russia followed Western nations to sign a nuclear deal with India. Does Japan have any choice under such “multilateral pressure”?
In conclusion, panelists insist that arms reduction is the first step toward a nuclear free world, and it is America’s interest to achieve this goal as US forces have overwhelming advantages in conventional weapons. Panelists talked many issues of vital interest on nuclear non proliferation and East Asian security. Attendants asked very stimulating questions. Unfortunately, I cannot mention everything at the symposium. Finally, I wish some conservative speakers had been invited to this event, because the discussion at the forum sounded rather liberal. That would have made this symposium more helpful to discuss the future of the US-Japanese alliance and nuclear arsenals.