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

Biden will not bring the US-Japan relations back to the pre-Trump era
KAWATO Akio / Former Japanese ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Currently a columnist at Newsweek Japan

February 25, 2021
There are many in Japan, too, who feel relieved that Trump has gone. The former President had made boorish speeches, such as “Increase the Host Nation Support, or we’ll pull out the US troops”, although that was in fact his idiosyncratic way of doing “transaction”, and Japan managed to maintain close communication both at the leaders’ and working levels.

Now the Japanese government seems to think that a ”normal” administration has finally returned to the US, and we can simply go back to the way of dealing with the US before the Trump era. The fact that Prime Minister Suga, who had been busy just dealing with the tasks as they came along during his rather long 8-year-term as a Chief Cabinet Secretary, has not had a clear vision about the future of Japan, makes the matter worse. A worn-out mantra of the “importance of Japan-US alliance” is being repeated to the new Biden Administration and Mr. Suga apparently feels complacent just “reaffirming” what the US has been saying for a long time, that is, “the Japan-US Security Treaty is applied to the Senkaku Islands (islands in the middle of the East China Sea, over which China claims sovereignty)”.

On the other hand, unlike the Trump Administration which considered diplomatic relations as nothing more than “deals”, the Biden Administration is trying to map out a far-sighted strategy. But the strategy is slightly different from the one of the Obama Era. For example, it used to be the case that in view of the critical importance of maintaining stability in the Western Pacific, the highest priority was given to the partnership with Japan, which was then the world’s No. 2 economic power and provided military bases essential to the US Force’s deployment. However, China is now exerting its influence to change both the economic and military frameworks around the Western Pacific, and the US preoccupation is how to deal with China. Japan has become a dispensable pawn in the game for that purpose and the US wants Japan to defend itself as best it can.

In this context, we can draw a lot of hints from the Foreign Affairs article written in early January by Kurt Campbell (a former Assistant Secretary of State), who has been appointed as Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs, a newly established post at the National Security Council. He claims that China’s rise both in economic and military aspects is threatening the balance and values in this region, as seen in its South China Sea island building, East China Sea incursions, conflict with India, threats to invade Taiwan, and internal repression in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and economic coercion directed against Australia.

Bearing in mind that China has invested in anti-access/area-denial weapons (including supersonic “carrier-killer” missiles), he advocates that the US should move away from its singular dependence on aircraft carriers and invest in new weapon systems such as long-range cruise and ballistic missiles equipped with conventional explosive warheads, unmanned carrier-based strike aircraft and underwater vehicles, mid-range guided-missile submarines, hypersonic assault weapons, and so on.

Furthermore, while Campbell criticizes Trump who paid little attention to the allies and partner countries and points out the importance of acting in concert with them, he also states that the US needs to help states in the Indo-Pacific develop “their own asymmetric capabilities to deter Chinese behavior”. In addition, he mentions the danger of American reliance on a small number of facilities in East Asia that are vulnerable to possible Chinese attacks (typical examples are Yokosuka and Sasebo for the Navy, Kadena for the Air Force, and Futenma for the Marine Corps) and says that the US needs to work with other states to disperse U.S. forces across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.

These are not new claims. But if materialized in total, they would considerably change the security environment in the Western Pacific. Until now, Japan has placed too much expectation on the US commitment to defend Japan. Japan has believed that, as long as the Japan-US relations are strong, the relations with other countries are manageable. Such naïveté may no longer be tenable.

The question that Japan has to face up to is “what kind of a society we want to build and what we should to do to protect such a society”. We need to thrash it out across partisan lines and reach a consensus. If, as a result, it is concluded to continue the Japan-US alliance (I personally believe that it is necessary to continue the alliance), the force structure and weapon systems of the Self Defense Force will have to be changed to adapt to the changes in the force structure and weapon systems of the US Forces. If the conclusion is reached and endorsed by the public that Japan should have a nuclear deterrent of its own, possible deployment or possession of the mid-range missiles currently under development by the US could be on the agenda (deployment on submarines, as it would be difficult to deploy on the ground). However, I personally am not yet convinced that Japan would need nuclear weapons.

The Suga administration seems to be preoccupied with the issues of Covid-19 and the hosting of the Olympics. But we can lose no time on the issues of security outlined above. If Japan continues to have a passive attitude for diplomacy without doing anything, it will be reduced to a third-class country that will have no choice but to accept a fait accompli worked out by South Korea, Australia, India and so on in consultation with the US.

Akio Kawato is former Japanese ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan,
currently a columnist at Newsweek Japan
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

河東 哲夫 / Newsweek日本・コラムニスト・元在ウズベキスタン大使

2021年 2月 25日


一方バイデン政権は、外交関係を「取引」としか見なかったトランプ政権と違って、先を見通した戦略を打ち出そうとしている。しかしその戦略は、オバマ時代までのものとは少々違ってきている。例えば以前、米国は西太平洋では安定維持を第一に考え、そのために、当時世界第2位の経済力と、米軍の展開に不可欠の基地を提供してくれる日本との提携を最重視した。しかし中国が経済・軍事両面で西太平洋の枠組みを変えんとする勢いを示している今は、米国はその中国にどう取り組むかで頭がいっぱい。日本はそのための駒の一つで 、自国の守りはできるだけ自前でやって欲しい国になっている。

この点で、米国の国家安全保障会議に新設のインド太平洋調整官に任命されたカート・キャンベル(元国務省次官補)が、1月初めのForeign Affairsに書いていることは非常に参考になる。彼は、中国の経済・軍事両面での台頭が、南シナ海での島建設、東シナ海での攻勢、インドとの抗争、台湾侵攻の脅し、国内の香港・新疆での抑圧、豪州への経済的圧力等をもたらし、この地域のバランス、価値観を脅かしていると言う。そして中国が米軍の接近を阻む兵器体系(「空母キラー・ミサイル」等)を整備していることを念頭に、米軍は航空母艦への過度の依存を捨てて、新たな兵器体系を構築することを提唱する。それは長距離の通常火薬弾頭装備の巡航・弾道ミサイル、空母発進の無人攻撃機・無人潜水機、中距離ミサイル搭載潜水艦(guided-missile submarines)、極超音速攻撃兵器等である。



日本はまず、「自分はどういう社会を築きたいと思っていて、その社会を守るためにどういうことをする。」ということを、党派争いを越えた議論で固めないといけない。その結果、日米同盟を続けるという結論になるのであれば(筆者は日米同盟継続は必要と考える)、米軍の配置換え、兵器体系の転換に見合う形で、自衛隊の配置、兵器体系も変えていく。自前の核抑止力を持つことが有用だという結論が得られ、世論の納得が得られれば、米国が現在開発している中距離ミサイルの日本への配備(陸上は難しいだろうから、潜水艦に配備)、あるいは保有も日程に上る。核兵器が必要であるかどうか について、筆者はまだ確信は持てないが。


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) > Biden will not bring the US-Japan relations back to the pre-Trump era