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

Absence of Strategic Foresight – Behind Hatoyama's Diplomatic Fiasco
KANEKO Atsuo  / Journalist on International Affairs

May 31, 2010
Under the Bush administration, the United States sought mono-polar rule of the post-Cold War world by wielding its military strength. However, U.S. unilateralism spiraled out of control towards its eventual demise, while U.S.-led globalism also collapsed in the arena of international economics. We are now living in the era of a multi-polar world. Some say we have moved beyond multi-polar, and prefer to call this a non-polar era. Meanwhile, when we turn our eyes to the confusion and media coverage generated by the "revision" of U.S. military bases in Okinawa sought by Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio, we get an impression that Japan-U.S. relations have remained locked inside a world of its own, far from the changes taking place in international relations.

U.S. military presence in Japan has been highly concentrated in Okinawa Prefecture, in the southernmost region of Japanese territory. In particular, Futenma Base is located amid an urban area, and its transfer outside the Prefecture has been a long-cherished wish of the people of Okinawa. Prime Minister Hatoyama had also advocated transferring the base, but has given up on his commitment. The Prime Minister excused himself by saying he had lacked adequate understanding on the issue of deterrence. A prominent foreign affairs expert had warned that should the U.S. marines based in Okinawa retreat to Guam, Chinese troops would make a move on the Senkaku Islands. A far-fetched scenario at most, but the Prime Minister was apparently convinced. The goal of diplomacy lies in protecting and expanding national interests. Upon consideration of the pros and cons, it is difficult to think that China would benefit from a military occupation of the Senkaku Islands.

Military force constitutes only a part of deterrence, and its importance has declined with the times. Over the past thirty years, China has achieved dramatic economic development and has raised its international profile. Nevertheless, the gap between rich and poor has widened and the gap between regions also remains large. While emphasizing its accomplishments, China is still seeking further development. Its economic relationships with Japan and the United States have become broadly and deeply intertwined to encompass trade, investment, finance and technological exchange, and even affects the daily lives of its ordinary citizens, culture and society.

National security and deterrence can only be discussed within this comprehensive framework of bilateral relations. Ultimately, deterrence boils down to a "guessing game." To be sure, the possibility that China would attack in the event of any weakening in U.S. deterrence may not be zero. Then again, we could also predict that such a possibility was infinitely close to zero. Prime Minister Hatoyama should have pointed this out.

General Secretary Kim Jong-il of North Korea must also be weighing the pros and cons of the use of nuclear weapons. By using nuclear weapons, North Korea would be pushed into a corner - politically, economically and militarily. It would only amount to an act of desperation that takes its people down the path of "national suicide." Japan and the United States would never be so foolish as to force North Korea in that direction.

There is yet another issue for which Prime Minister Hatoyama must seek a response from U.S. President Barack Obama. It is now 65 years since Japan's defeat in World War II, and Okinawa still remains under a state of occupation, with 74% of all U.S. military bases stationed within this small prefecture. In the residential area around the U.S. marines’ Futenma Base several tragic incidents have occurred over the years. Local residents continue to live each day in fear of danger. But their ardent wish for a transfer is met with no recipients either elsewhere in Okinawa or on mainland Japan. Futenma Base is shrouded in powerful Okinawan sentiments against military bases, and we should examine the pros and cons of strongly insisting on retaining this base for a possibility that is "not zero."

Abolishing nuclear weapons is an ultimate goal upheld by the Obama administration, and efforts are being made to review the strategy of nuclear intimidation pursued by the Bush administration. U.S. military-foreign strategy is surrounded by an establishment of colossal interest groups, and its inner circle includes individuals stubbornly set in their ideology, so the review process will take time. Its impact on the Forward Deployment Strategy of U.S. forces remains unclear for the time being. Even so, a transformation is underway, one step at a time. It includes U.S. participation in the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), promotion of Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) with Russia, discontinuation of new nuclear weapons development and a transition to conventional weapons-based deterrence by reducing the role of nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Hatoyama made a timely move when he advocated shifting the emphasis of Japanese diplomacy to an Asia independent of America. I believe most Japanese support this initiative. However, following through with such a strategy requires an accurate grasp of the direction of U.S. foreign policy and international relations, as well as the guts to say what must be said. These he lacked.

Over a period of roughly twenty years since the end of the Cold War, a select group of high-ranking bureaucrats and politicians on both the Japanese and U.S. sides was formed. This was the group that set the diplomatic, military and economic agenda in bilateral relations. Let's call it the "Japan-U.S. Lobby." They are the architects of today's Japan-U.S. relationship, which was hailed as "one of the most accomplished relationships in history" in a joint statement issued by then Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro and President Bush in 2006. They will not tolerate Hatoyama's brand of diplomacy, which seeks to review Japan's relationship with the United States, break away from U.S. influence towards a more independent path and gives greater emphasis to Asia. From the start, they had criticized Hatoyama's foreign policy as a threat to the Japan-U.S. alliance. The media on both sides of the Pacific were quick to pick up on their opinions. Yet, is Japan's current relationship with America so good?

Japan is a rare country that fully supported President Bush's approach of giving priority to military force. Having swallowed whole the U.S. brand of capitalism, Japanese society has come to ruin. The national interests of our two countries do not overlap entirely. That is what Prime Minister Hatoyama should be saying.

The writer is Professor Emeritus of Osaka International University and former Washington Bureau Chief of Kyodo News.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

金子敦郎 / 国際問題ジャーナリスト

2010年 5月 31日










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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Absence of Strategic Foresight – Behind Hatoyama's Diplomatic Fiasco