ICAS Special Contribution

No. 2000-1214-AkN
Advance Toward Power-Sharing:
A New Action Plan For The U.S.-Japan Alliance

Akihisa Nagashima

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Tel : (610) 277-9989; (610) 277-0149
Fax: (610) 277-3992
Email: icas@icasinc.org

Biographic Sketch: Akihisa Nagashima

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution with written permission to ICAS of Akihisa Nagashima's paper. It is his generous gift to ICAS: sjk]


Akihisa Nagashima
Visiting Scholar, Reischauer Center, Johns Hopkins-SAIS
National Security Advisor to the President of the Democratic Party of Japan

December 14, 2000
© The Center for Strategic and International Studies
Washington, D.C.

First of all, let me congratulate to you for having elected new President of the United States.

Frankly speaking, I am pretty happy about Gov. Bush becoming President, for at least three reasons:

1) Believe or not, I have more Republican friends than Democratic friends, although I am a Democrat in Japan.

2) I have been more inclined to identify with Republican's Asian policy, ever since Dr. Arthur Waldron explained to me the Reagan-Bush administrations' Asia policy as follows:

"The danger comes, when we begin to focus too much on China, as we have done repeatedly, and think of the other states in the region as being "shock-absorbers."

He believes (and I agree with him) that "a wide-ranging, Pan-Asian policy is a recipe for success, while a narrowly focused China-centered policy leads to trouble."

"China is only one of many countries in Asia. Asian politics and security is like a "jigsaw puzzle," but the nature of this puzzle is that you have to put down all the other pieces first. After you've put all the other pieces down, then the place for China becomes rather clear."

I like this idea, because there is lots of room where Japan can play active roles in Asian politics and security.

That is why the United States should have incentives to hold strategic dialogue with its allies in the region like Japan

3) I like President Bush's Japan policy. Particularly, the following line that he repeatedly used in his campaign speech:

"Never again should an American president spend nine days in China, and not even bother to stop in Tokyo or Seoul or Manila. Never again should an American president fall silent when China criticizes our security ties with Japan."

More precisely, I like President Bush's advisors' Japan policy.

In fact, I appreciate very much the so-called Armitage Report, and Mike Green is one of "kuromaku" for the Report.

Instead of talking just about Japanese politics, let me first respond to a number of issues in the Report, particularly against the backdrop of the growing generational gap between the current political leadership in Japan and my generation.

Then, I would like to propose some new ideas to reinvigorate the U.S.-Japan Alliance for the 21st century.


I was very excited about the part of the Armitage Report that described the potential of U.S.-Japan relationship'.

The Report mentioned "the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain as a model for the (U.S.-Japan) alliance."

It also says "It is time for burden-sharing to evolve into power-sharing."

Moreover, the Report articulates, "Japan's prohibition against collective self-defense is a constraint on alliance cooperation. Lifting this prohibition would allow for closer and more efficient security cooperation."

I also welcomed the fact that the Report correctly recognizes and appreciates "the emergence of new pragmatism about security affairs among a younger generation of elected officials."

The younger generation in Japan is engaged in straight talk.

They have no taboo toward issues of national security, meaning that they do not tolerate an unhealthy division of responsibilities in alliance cooperation (as I will explain later); --nor are they reluctant to let Japan play a greater role in security affairs.

I believe that the time is about to come for Washington and Tokyo to revamp the traditional alliance structure in anticipation of the changes taking place in Asia.

In retrospect, we have missed many opportunities to do so in the last 10 years, mostly because political leadership on both sides remained inactive, and particularly current Japanese leadership doesn't seem to be interested in re-designing the alliance to adapt to the new strategic reality after the end of the Cold War.

What is really needed in the past decade was to establish post-Cold War rationale for maintaining an alliance that is acceptable to the broad public of both nations, and more importantly, to make the difficult political decisions to expand Japan's roles and missions within the alliance and the geographic scope of alliance cooperation.

But this has not occurred.

The leadership in both countries has been content to ride out a series of crises such as 1994 Korean nuclear crisis, 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, 1998 Taepodong launch, and 1999 spy ship incident, and has failed to renew roles and missions division of responsibilities between the two nations to adapt to the post-Cold War security environment.

Therefore, the revision of the Defense Guidelines was almost single-handedly regarded in Japan to deal with a Korean contingency rather than deal effectively with uncertainties and unpredictable dangers of the post-Cold War regional settings as originally designed.

(Again, Mike was also one of key architects of the Guidelines review in 1997.)

Japan should have transcended the traditional debate over collective defense, and the geographic scope of the alliance cooperation to a new paradigm in which Japan can perform active roles in peacekeeping operations, humanitarian relief missions, and maritime interdiction operations at least in the Asia-Pacific region.

In so doing, Japan would have strengthened its national security apparatus to begin counterbalancing the strength of their counterparts in the United States.

Hence, for the first time, Japan would have been ready for "power-sharing" with the United States.

In a more "power-sharing" alliance structure, Japan would become a "normal ally" to share not only "costs" but also "risks" with the United States.

This would be radically different from the long-term tradition of the alliance structure where "the United States was to take risks in a crisis, while Japan would assume costs during peacetime."

Ironically, the current leadership in Japan doesn't seem to be aware that the traditional alliance structure increasingly frustrates people in both countries, namely that "the Americans complaint about Japan as unreliable ally in the event of a crisis, while the Japanese grumble about heavy burden of hosting American soldiers and bases in their soil."

In my view, such structural asymmetries in alliance cooperation have been the source of daily conflicts between the two countries.

These asymmetries have increasingly become problematic and are always bothering alliance managers on both sides of the Pacific.

Honestly speaking, the Japanese public becomes increasingly sensitive about the fact that the prerogatives the U.S. forces claimed over bases and facilities during the occupation era have continued for more than fifty years into present. That was forged in a Cold War mentality.

In Europe, for instance, U.S. Navy vessels use the ports of friendly navies, whereas at Yokosuka and Sasebo in Japan, ships of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces are allowed to use only small parts of them, even though the Japanese Government bears almost 100% of cost of maintaining those extraterritorial facilities.

Younger Japanese believe such abnormal situations should not be maintained into the next century.

Even at Subic Bay before the American withdrawal, a Filipino admiral was in command of the base, even though the Americans paid rent to use Subic's facilities.

Therefore, I believe that administrative control of all the U.S. bases in Japan should be transferred to the Japan Self-Defense Forces, with guarantees of access to American units.

I am not express a "cheap nationalist" argument here.

But what I'm trying to explain is the kind of public sentiment that existed behind the political debate over the reduction of the so-called "sympathy budget" early this year.

More importantly, these kind of growing frustrations also result from the Japanese leadership's general inaction on security issues and their inability to attempt to correct the structural asymmetries in alliance cooperation.

On American side, likewise, there have been enormous frustrations stemming from their image of Japan as an unreliable ally during times of crisis as well as concerning Japan's reluctant participation in international peacekeeping activities.

--I recognize that recent Japanese reluctance in East Timor peacekeeping operations disappointed many American friends.

I believe both Japan and the United States need a strong trans-pacific alliance, defined by "shared risks, shared burdens, and shared benefits."

If you simply leave such asymmetries for alliance managers' daily tasks, the alliance will neither advance nor mature into the alliance that the Armitage Report anticipates.

Now that the U.S. side has presented various proposals toward the alliance, it is time for the Japanese to respond with "new action plan" for normal alliance relations based on equal partnership.

Such action plan must include the following:

  • Strengthen the national security apparatus as a whole
  • Enact emergency law to implement the bilateral defense cooperation guidelines in the event of a crisis
  • Enact laws to protect classified information to strengthen the bilateral intelligence and armament cooperation
  • Get rid of constraint on collective defense to realize full-scale bilateral security planning and joint actions
  • Identify new roles and missions in alliance cooperation that contribute to regional security (not just defense of Japanese Islands and areas surrounding Japan)

New roles and missions include:

  • Full-fledged peacekeeping activities
  • Joint study on cyber warfare and intelligence sharing
  • Joint study on TMD and space warfare
  • Joint naval and air patrols of the Western Pacific (also with the ROK and Australia based on effectively allocated areas of responsibilities)
In the 10 years since the end of the Cold War, the main objective of the U.S. military's forward presence has changed from containment of the Soviet Union to ensuring regional stability.

Therefore, Japan's heavy burden to host nearly a half of U.S. forces deployed across the Asian-Pacific is more than for the purpose of its own security and is increasingly becoming an "international public goods."

Japan needs to translate this valuable asset into diplomatic capital.

In other words, Japan has the right to execute regional political leadership, because Japan has offered special strategic accommodation for U.S. military presence that has and continues to provide the foundation for peace and stability in the entire region, if not the world.

Japan should lead the coordination among U.S. allies and friends in the Western Pacific to create a mechanism of HOST-REGION SUPPORT for U.S. forward presence, rather than just a system of host-nation support according to each country.

This type of HOST REGION SUPPORT would provide the foundation of a "Pacific Security Community" that would be based on the strengthening the U.S.-Japan Alliance.

As a first step in this process, I propose that Japan should hold such dialogue with representatives from Korea and Australia concerning the creation of such a support mechanism.

Of course, there would be concerns that an expansion of Japanese leadership in security affairs would stir up Chinese anxieties.

However, this idea of HOST REGION SUPPORT does not exclude the participation of any country as long as that country values U.S. forward presence for the purpose of regional security and has the will to accept part of these forces within their country.

I simply follow what I learned from Dr. Waldron.

"The way that you stabilize Asia is by first establishing a kind of a framework among the countries that are more like us - that have robust institutions, that have democracy, that have economic freedom. And once you've created that, and that's strong, China, more or less, is going to fit into that. And if China doesn't, we're hedged against the possibility."

If, after all, Japan can succeed in displaying the leadership for this kind of international collaboration, it would serve to sweep away the concerns about Japanese unilateralism that consistently exist among members of the U.S. government as well as Asian neighbors.

Furthermore, the creation of a HOST REGION SUPPORT mechanism would also help stop American tendencies of isolationism, and help the United States to remain actively engaged in the region.

More importantly, only when Japan is able to exercise leadership of this issue, can it advance bilateral collaboration to establish the regional security strategies aiming at securing the peace and stability in the Asian Pacific region. Only then can it truly be an equal partner of the United States.

If this type of equal partnership were realized, I strongly believe, the issues of "imbalance" and "asymmetry" inherent in the U.S.-Japan alliance cooperation would no longer be as problematic.

But in order for Japan to take advantage of this opportunity, it must show a posture that takes responsibility not only in word, but with meaning and action-for the security of the Asia-Pacific region.

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