Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Is Japan Losing Perspective on U.S. Relations?
HANABUSA Masamichi / Former Japanese Ambassador to Italy

August 3, 2004
Nobody can deny that America is important for Japan. I have nevertheless detected some worrying signs in the present state of Japan-US relations. More frequently than before do we hear people argue that for Japan good relations with the US is an objective in itself. Besides, many Japanese are unwittingly think that good Japan-US relations is synonymous with what Americans consider good. I am inclined to think that some lopsided aspects of our relationship with the US deserve to be reconsidered from a detached viewpoint, if we want sound Japan-US relations to continue into the future.

Let us start by reexamining our alliance. We seem to be moving towards accepting the view that it is desirable for Japan to revise its Constitution so we can exercise the so-called "right of collective self-defense" to accommodate US desires. Some politicians dare to argue that it is only natural for Japan to come to the defense of the US in case it is attacked, as long as Japan aspires to be its ally. The logic of this argument is blatantly simplistic now that it has become clear that the US will pursue its national interest at all cost.

The Bush Administration has adopted a military doctrine that America will not hesitate in resorting to preemptive attacks when judged necessary. Thus in theory we must anticipate the possibility that the US will take military action that goes beyond the traditional interpretation of the concept of self-defense, or that it could use its military supremacy principally to pursue American national interests.

Faced with this reality, it would only be an exercise in nostalgia for Japan to insist on the traditional interpretation of collective self-defense that presupposes an ally under attack. What is urgently required of us is precisely determine the geographic, circumstantial and modal conditions under which Japan will employ its military forces abroad. Most urgently, we must achieve a national consensus that would allow Japan to participate in peace-keeping operations endorsed by the United Nations without reservation. Ongoing arguments about Japanese military collaborations with the US are fraught with the danger of abruptly turning Japan's hitherto extremely cautious stance towards its military alliance with the US into an uncritical enthusiasm for the alliance.

Turning to our financial relations with America, we find there an unbelievably anomalous situation. As a result of the massive intervention by the Bank of Japan to prevent an "excessive over-valuation of the yen," Japan has accumulated an extraordinarily large cache of dollar-denominated assets such as US Treasury bonds. These in turn cover the ever-increasing "twin deficits" of the US. If its debts owed to Japan were denominated in yen, the US would be forced to cover foreign exchange risks, which would impose a degree of financial discipline on the US. At present it is creditor Japan, not debtor US, who is balancing the accounts. Furthermore, there is a strange phenomenon that the Tokyo Stock Exchange is in the hands of foreign investors, even while there are massive outflows of money out of Japan because of long-continuing ultra-low domestic interest rates. Japanese financial markets are apparently prone to manipulation from overseas through dealings in futures and various derivatives. Strong attention must be paid to this unfavorable and dangerous financial relationship with the US and serious efforts made to gradually rectify the situation.

We should also scrutinize American involvement in recent Japanese discussion regarding the revision of its Constitution. I am of the view that part of the significance of our Constitutional revision is the emerging Japanese inclination of reviewing the post-war "reforms" imposed on Japan by the US. Setting aside arguments about what to add to the present Constitution, many Japanese desire to clarify Japan's identity in terms of its tradition and culture, as well as to take indigenous initiatives to correct distortions that have become apparent in Japanese society in the areas of the role of family, the functioning of the second House and the system of local government, among others. To the US meanwhile, whether Japan revises or retains the controversial Article 9 may be of great interest.

However, the Americans are strongly advised to exercise judicious caution not to intervene in this important domestic issue of Japan. It is pointless for Japanese politicians go to Washington to seek US views on this matter. This time around, the Japanese must make their own independent decisions.

The writer is a former Ambassador and Chairman of the English-Speaking Union of Japan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

英 正道 / 元駐イタリア大使

2004年 8月 3日





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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Is Japan Losing Perspective on U.S. Relations?