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

Deliberating Japan-NATO Military Cooperation
MAGOSAKI Ukeru  / Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Defense Academy

June 14, 2007
Japan's security policy is now pointing in a new direction as shown by the redefinition of the Self-Defense Forces' international activities as part of their primary missions. Japan is still deliberating ways to actually implement this international contribution, and Japan-NATO military cooperation is part of this deliberation.

In his paper "Global NATO" in the U.S. publication Foreign Affairs, September 2006, Ivo Daalder proposed that "NATO should transform itself into a global military alliance" and that "NATO membership should be extended to Australia, Japan and New Zealand." When the U.S. government makes a shift in its foreign policy, Foreign Affairs has often published papers indicating that shift. As I was aware of this from past experiences, I have been following with interest the relationship of the Daalder paper and moves by the U.S. government.

Since then, U.S. foreign policy shows that the U.S. government has indeed moved in the direction indicated by the Daalder paper. At the meeting of the U.S.-Japan security consultative committee of foreign and defense ministers on May 1, it was confirmed that Japan will strengthen its cooperation with NATO. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said at the joint press conference that "the Unites States will seek ways to further strengthen trilateral cooperation among the United States, Japan, and Australia as well as achieving broader Japan-NATO cooperation. One good example of where Japan can cooperate with NATO is supporting the reconstruction activities in Afghanistan." Therefore, there is no doubt that ways will be henceforth deliberated further towards realizing the military cooperation between Japan and NATO.

It is clear that the United States has the intention of promoting Japan-NATO military cooperation. What, then, is the attitude of the Japanese government? The person taking the most proactive stance is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself. Speaking at NATO on January 12, Mr. Abe said that "Japan and NATO have in common such fundamental values as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We now need to work together more than ever in sharing our capabilities, as we work to consolidate peace in the face of conflict." Specifically, he indicated Japan's commitment to Afghanistan, saying Japan will cooperate with NATO in the area of security, and with NATO's Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT)'s humanitarian activities. According to the Nikkei Shimbun and other sources, when visiting NATO headquarters on May 4, Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma said to Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Sheffer that Japan will consider the possibility of the Self-Defense Forces cooperating with NATO in its reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. These pronouncements by the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Defense all appear to show their forward stance in strengthening Japan's relationship with NATO.

So, are there any obstacles to Japan heading in that direction? There are at least two big obstacles. One is the response of NATO itself, and the other is the relationship with Japan's domestic politics.

At NATO's summit in Riga in November 2006, the members could not agree on the issue of global partnership, and it was decided that countries such as Japan and Australia would continue to be treated as "contact countries." This is probably because the NATO countries were wary of the moves made by the United States.

The other obstacle is domestic politics in Japan. Upper House elections will be held on July 11. Whether the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito can win the majority in this election will be an important factor in the government being able to pass legislations in the future. At this point in time, LDP victory is not assured. Fortunately for the government and the ruling coalition, however, Prime Minister Abe's approval rating has recovered somewhat in recent days. According to the Nikkei Shimbun poll in April, 53 % approved (up 5 % from the previous month) while 37 % did not approve, clearly showing that Mr. Abe's popularity is making a V-shaped recovery curve. However, even LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa admits that "Mr. Abe regaining popularity does not necessarily mean that the LDP is regaining support or that the people want the LDP to win in the Upper House elections." In his address at NATO, Mr. Abe said that "Afghanistan's stability is vital to Japan and the world," but the Japanese people have not reached that perception yet. Therefore, the SDF deployment in Afghanistan has an inherent risk of lowering support for the LDP. The assessment of how the Afghanistan issue will affect the Upper House elections will be an important factor in deciding the direction of this policy.

Both the governments of Japan and the United States think that it is desirable to strengthen Japan-NATO military cooperation, but in what form this will actually develop will be greatly affected by the response of NATO and domestic politics in Japan. When Prime Minister Abe mentioned ODA support for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and SDF activities in the Indian Ocean on April 16, he said, "as for whether the SDF will be sent to participate in the PRT, I have not considered the participation of the SDF."

The writer is the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of the National Defense Academy and former Ambassador to Iran.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

孫崎 享 / 防衛大学校人文社会学群長

2007年 6月 14日

米国のフォーリン・アフェアーズ誌2006年9月号はアイボ・ダールダーの「Global NATO」論文を発表し、ダールダーはその中で「NATOをグローバルな軍事同盟に変貌させよ」「豪州、日本、ニュージーランドのNATO加盟を」等を主張した。フォーリン・アフェアーズ誌は米国が外交政策の方向転換を行う際に、しばしば転換を示唆する論文を発表してきた。この経緯もあって筆者はダールダー論文と米国政府の動きの関連性に関心を寄せてきた。







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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Deliberating Japan-NATO Military Cooperation