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

The United States must shed its "victor" mentality
ONO Goro  / Professor Emeritus, Saitama University

March 27, 2009
The comment by Ichiro Ozawa, Leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, to the effect that the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet alone should constitute sufficient U.S. military presence in Japan has drawn fire both at home and abroad. The comment has obvious shortcomings. However, the detractors, for their part, seem only to accept the status quo and do not offer much that is constructive. Serious and thorough debate is called for on the future of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Many in the LDP and U.S. circles assert that Ozawa's comment is "harmful to the Japan-U.S. alliance". However, they fail entirely to address such fundamental questions as why the Japan-U.S. alliance is necessary in the first place and what kind of alliance it should be. They seem simply to be saying that Japan should just follow the United States. That would give us only uncertain prospects from the viewpoint of building a stable Japan-U.S. alliance for the future.

The Social Democratic Party criticizes Ozawa as "opening the way to Japan's rearmament". This is only a reflection the SDP's stance of blindly adhering to the "non-recognition of the right of belligerency" clause of the Japanese Constitution. Such adherence to a provision promulgated under Allied occupation, when Japan had neither the right nor the capacity to defend itself, could even be construed as willingness to remain an occupied power.

There is no denying that, having declared non-possession of nuclear weapons as its national policy, Japan needs to remain under the nuclear umbrella of the United States. For this, it should suffice for Japan to conclude an agreement with the United States which has vast nuclear arsenals as deterrent, and most of the U.S. Forces Japan will not be needed. The Soviet threat of the past has disappeared. If we are to cope with new threats that may arise in its place, it should be sufficient in peacetime to have the existing Japan Self Defense Forces capabilities and the select core elements of the U.S. Navy and Air Force in Japan. If the U.S. Forces were just to complement the deficiencies of the Japan Self Defense Forces in defending Japan, which is surrounded by sea, it would seem that neither the U.S. Army nor the Marines would be needed in Japan.

But can Japan be so passive about the Japan-U.S. alliance? Would such passivity not make the alliance hardly worth its name? The alliance partners should complement each other much more. However, the reciprocity of the alliance should not go so far as to enable the dispatching of the Japanese Self Defense Forces to the bases in the United States for CONUS (Continental United States) defense. In the bilateral context, Japan's task under the present circumstances would be to provide the bases to enable the 7th Fleet, crucial for CONUS defense, to operate at ease to the west of the United States, and to cooperate with the United States on coping with terrorism, the Achilles' heel most troubling to the militarily powerful Unites States. Even with those, the Japan-U.S. alliance would still fall short of fully discharging role in the global context.

It is essential for the United States to explain clearly its world strategy and the role of the U.S. Forces Japan, and have Japan on board. Regrettably, we are still far from that today. This is because the bulk of the U.S. military bases in Japan have been carried over from the occupation period. The mentality of the United States prone to exercise its prerogative as the victor seems to linger on behind the presence of the U.S. Forces Japan as well as its continued justification of the war crime of atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If this continues to be the case, anti-American sentiments may continue to fester in the mind of the majority of the Japanese people, though they may be friendly to the United States on the surface. This will not help the building of durable Japan-U.S. alliance based on mutual trust for the future.

Further, Japan's sharing of the costs of relocating the Marines from Okinawa and of maintaining the U.S. bases in Japan should be considered as a gesture of Japan's good will toward its ally, the United States. The United should not demand this of Japan as if by right. I have not heard of any other example where the occupied side bore the cost of the withdrawal of the occupying forces, or a government allowing the stationing of foreign troops on its soil not just exempting them from fees for the use of the bases but also giving them financial support.

If the United States seriously believes in the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance in its global strategy, it should first shed its victor's mentality, and should go back to the drawing board regarding the U.S. bases in Japan, ridding itself of the leftovers from the Occupation period. Then it should start rebuilding a truly equal alliance relationship. If we start from a clean slate and rethink rationally, the necessary and sufficient size of the U.S, Forces in Japan is likely to be much smaller than they are today, unlikely as they are to be limited to the 7th Fleet only.

Lest there should be misunderstanding, I should make one thing clear. I am a staunch proponent of the Japan-U.S. alliance, who has been advocating the necessity of the Japan-U.S. security arrangements for half a century since around 1960, when there were intense clamors for the abrogation of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. I am not like those opportunists or blind followers of the Unites States who swam with the tide and started singing the praise of the Japan-U.S. alliance. If we keep drifting with these people, serious cracks are bond to appear in our alliance sooner or later.

I look forward to the Obama Administration effecting "change" on this important issue.

The writer is Professor Emeritus at Saitama University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小野五郎 / 埼玉大学名誉教授 

2009年 3月 27日










一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The United States must shed its "victor" mentality