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

Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions of Japan-U.S. Relations
NUMATA Sadaaki / Chairman, The English-Speaking Union of Japan

September 20, 2012
The encounter between Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira and President Jimmy Carter in the White House on 2 May 1979, in which I was acting as the interpreter, stands out in my memory as one filled with personal warmth and rapport.

According to the declassified minutes of the conversation, when President Carter mentioned the desirability of a relationship of greater equality, Prime Minister Ohira responded as follows: "As I look back over the postwar years, our relationship has gradually but steadily developed from a vertical to a horizontal relationship. In all candor, however, our relationship is not fully equal yet. It is important for our people to have an accurate perception of their own strength and responsibility so that they can have influence on a variety of issues in world affairs."

The "vertical" notion has played an important part in the debate on the equality or otherwise of the Japan-U.S. relationship for more than six decades. The "guardian-protégé" mindset of the 1950’s gave rise to "amae" (presuming upon U.S. benevolence) on the one hand and the resentment of overdependence on or subservience to the U.S. and the hankering for autonomy and independence on the other. The picture became complicated as the perceptions of our relative strengths changed, from Strong U.S. and Weak Japan, to Not So Strong U.S. and Economically Strong Japan, to Still Strong U.S. and Economically Weakening Japan, and then to More Constrained U.S. and Still Faltering Japan.

When Prime Minister Ohira mentioned a "horizontal" relationship, he clearly had in mind not just the bilateral Japan-U.S. context but also our engagements with other countries and our responsibility- or burden-sharing in the international community. In that sense, the problem continues to this day.

Whether with respect to burden-sharing in defense, trade, macro-economic management, international peace-keeping and peace-making, or sustainable development of the developing world, there has been a perennial expectation gap between Japan and the United States. The U.S. feels that Japan can and should do more. Japan feels that it is either not able or not ready yet to do more, and often resents being dictated by the U.S. The pattern has repeated itself over and over again.

We cannot allow this pattern to continue, at a time when the world is beset with macro-economic, energy, environmental, and trade liberalization challenges as well as conflicts in Afghanistan, the Middle East and elsewhere. Closer to our shores, there is an increasingly acute sense of threat or tension regarding North Korea, South Korea, China and Russia. We need to demonstrate that the Japan-U.S. alliance ensures peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and, more broadly, provides public goods to the international community.

To do that, we in Japan must get out of our inward-looking mindset, which has become more pronounced after the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power crisis of March 11 last year. The continuing disarray in our political leadership is stalling progress on the domestic agenda, which may be leading many to doubt if Japan can afford to do much for the international community. The partisan and intra-partisan squabbling should be sorted out as soon as possible so that we can regain our national confidence and move on to chart a vision and strategy of how Japan will help shape a better world.

The Armitage-Nye Report 2012, "U.S.-Japan Alliance: Anchoring Stability in Asia", pointedly raises the question as to whether Japan desires to continue to be a tier-one nation or is content to drift into tier-two status. Instead of resenting this as another case of U.S. meddling in our affairs, we should think about what Mr. Ohira might say if he were alive today and watched how we Japanese perceive our strength and responsibility and how we propose to act in the world.

The writer is a former ambassador to Canada and Pakistan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

沼田 貞昭 / 日本英語交流連盟会長

2012年 9月 20日


日米を上下の関係で捉える考え方は、過去60年以上にわたって、日米は平等であるか否かの論議において重要な役割を果たしてきた。1950年代の「保護者・被保護者」意識は、一方において米国に対する「甘え」を生み、他方において対米依存、対米従属に対する反感と自主独立への憧れを生んだ。日米お互いの相対的な力についての認識が、「強い米国と弱い日本 」から「それほど強くない米国と経済力の強い日本」へ、次いで「まだ強い米国と弱まりつつある日本」、さらには「より制約された米国と低迷を続ける日本」へと変化するにつれて、この構図は複雑なものになってきた。






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions of Japan-U.S. Relations