ICAS Winter Symposium
Humanity, Peace and Security
February 13, 2007 1:00 PM -- 5:00 PM
National Press Club,
Washington D.C. 20510
Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.
965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422
Biographic Sketch & Links: Yoichi Kato
Last week I was just at Taipei to attend a meeting organized by the Minister of National Defense of Taiwan. They wanted to look into the issue of cross-strait contingencies, inviting Japanese and American experts . . . what the latest challenges are and what can be done. And after that I went to London to attend a session on North Korea which was organized (inaudible) in London. It was just on the day of the six-party talks and there was quite an interesting discussion. So I will today share a little bit of what I discussed myself, and also some that other colleagues who attended the conference shared with me.
First of all, let me go over the six-party talks which was just (inaudible) the session (inaudible) early this morning, our time (inaudible). And mostly you are pretty aware of the agenda (inaudible) Let me just give you a rough sketch of the assessment from Japan's point of view. First of all, in terms of shut-down (inaudible) nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, of course, it's a great program - accomplishment from Japan's point of view, because I will talk about it a little bit later, but I think Japan is the country which takes the greatest, the most serious threat from North Korea's nuclear arsenals because you know, as a student at the National War College, I learned the very basics of national security strategy. The threat consists of capability and intention. And of course the intention - the capability of intention is equally threatening to any country as long as they are situated, located within the range of the delivery systems that North Korea has. But when it comes to intention, I think Japan has the most serious problem with North Korea because of its strategic position and also the relationship with North Korea going back several decades. And North Korea has been openly threatening Japan with their nuclear capabilities and they have, of course as you all know, tested (inaudible) delivery system of missiles over Japan (inaudible) a couple times actually, and so the threat is most seriously felt in Japan. So de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula is a really serious issue for Japan. Japan (inaudible) serious issue so it's certainly in the interest of Japan to deal with this issue, with the multi-lateral framework of the six-party talks.
But as I also will touch upon later, since Japan has its own very special problem with North Korea which is the abduction issue, it is especially hard for Japan to really be with North Korea to solve this particular issue on a one-on-one basis, bilateral issue. So this achievement of the six-party talks was really remarkable for Japan.
And as for the other (inaudible) issues that Japan has in North Korea, this abduction issue, compared with the last round of talks, this time around, there is bilateral Japan-North Korea, even though they were very short, this I think could be regarded as progress, and also as you know, as part of the agreement, the set-up of a working group on Japan-North Korea is agreed upon, and this is also regarded as progress in terms of the abduction issue.
But on the other hand, there are a number of shortcomings, and the problems still remain. As for the nuclear issues, the experts in Japan are paying a lot of attention to the wording of the agreement. One of the things that they are especially paying attention to is the absence of the words "nuclear weapons" in this agreement this time around. In the previous agreement, there was a clear expression of nuclear weapons, but this time around, these words just disappeared. And the interpretations among the experts, why this term "nuclear weapons" disappeared is one (inaudible) the purpose of the (inaudible) is limited to prevention of further production of plutonium or to the stop the further progress of North Korea nuclear technology. That means it's not really removal or dismantlement of the existing nuclear weapons, but rather the emphasis is on the prevention of further development, and that is - further development of nuclear weapons or further development of nuclear technology of North Korea. And that is (inaudible) interpretation that the experts in Japan express regarding the disappearance of the term "nuclear weapons" from the agreement.
The problem is, of course, as I said, Japan is the country in the region which feels the most threat from the existing nuclear weapons in North Korea. So of course it's really important for Japan to have a measure to prevent the further development, but it is for us, for Japan, perhaps more important to tackle the issue of dismantlement of existing nuclear weapons. And this point is not clearly mentioned in the agreement, and that is a concern for Japan.
The other (inaudible) regarding the situation is that, by nature, this agreement can be regarded as rewarding North Korea for bad behavior. And basically, as you know, the basic frame or content of this agreement is similar to the framework of '94, and all through these years, North Korea developed nuclear technology and a nuclear weapon and now they have declared (inaudible) But just by going back to the '94 agreement, they will be rewarded an enormous amount of energy and other financial assistance. So of course if there is any other way all those parties could proceed - so I'm not just criticizing the agreement which was just agreed on, but by nature we have to acknowledge that the five-parties are actually rewarding the bad behavior of North Korea by just getting back to the old agreement.
And of course it remains to be seen whether all those agreements will be actually implemented. I think it's been pointed out by American media also. So this is also a potential shortcoming of this agreement. We don't know whether it's going to really bring about results that the five parties all tried to accomplish. And as for the abduction issue, there are also a number of problems unsolved. Even though, as I pointed out, that the working group to deal with Japan-North Korea bilateral issues was agreed upon to stand up - there is no agreement or assurance that North Korea will really address the abduction issues. It only talks about getting on the working group to deal with the bilateral issues between Japan and North Korea. And as you all know, the North Korea's official position about abduction issues is that those issues are finally solved already and there is nothing more to talk about and that Japan is only making a problem by bringing up the abduction issues repeatedly in the frame of the six-party talks, and North Korea was accusing Japan of sabotaging the process by bringing up this issue which according to their position, is already solved. And there's no guarantee that North Korea will change its position in this newly created working group, that they are going to negotiate actually with Japan to solve this abduction issue.
Also like nuclear weapon - the term "nuclear weapon" - there's no word of "abduction" in the agreement, in the document. The concern is that even though North Korea agreed to create and initiate this bilateral working group with Japan, all what they will come out and talk is their demands for economic assistance from Japan. And what's being really talked about in this round of talks could be an indication of what is going to happen in the future, but there is a very short - even though there was a bilateral talk between North Korea and Japan, but there is no substantive progress at all in terms of the abduction issue. And then as we all know, through the report - the (inaudible) reporting - the reason why North Korea agreed to set up this bilateral workshop with Japan is because South Korea pushed North Korea very hard to agree to set up this forum with Japan. So it wasn't - there is no indication at all that there - there was no willingness on the part of North Korea to engage in this bilateral talk with Japan. So even though there is some indication of progress for this abduction issue, as I explained, there is no process for the future.
Next, what is the impact of this agreement, or the result of the six-party talks in the regional security environment? Perhaps as a means for confidence building, CVM (?) - they may have some (inaudible) in that, but doesn't necessarily guarantee or lead to any reduction of threat which is the eventual goal of these multi-lateral talks. I think this agreement has enormous potential for eventual threat reduction in the region, but as I said, whether those agreements will be implemented, as it's said in the document, and lead to the actual threat reduction, or even a threat elimination, remains to be seen. There is no guarantee. We will see. We have a long history of being disappointed by North Korea, so it's really hard to have a high hope for the future from Japan's point of view.
And what are the challenges for Japan ahead, in terms of dealing with this issue with North Korea? One of them is isolation. There has been a concern of isolation being expressed in Japan, even before this round of six-party talks. Because Japan, especially the Prime Minister, takes a very firm position that Japan can extend no economic assistance to North Korea without progress in abduction issues, and of course the abduction issue is a very serious issue that Japan takes, and there's no way for any administration in Japan to pass this issue and just work on the progress of the nuclear issue. But it's a combination of the nuclear issue and the abduction issue that makes Japan stand in a very difficult position to make progress and catch up with the rest of the five parties. So this is a big challenge that Japan faces.
And of course Japan is trying to (inaudible) a comprehensive approach to solve all those issues that Japan has with North Korea including nuclear weapons, nuclear warheads, missiles, and abduction issues, and of course, past history issues, war reparation, and all those things. Japan is trying to work on those issues in a comprehensive manner, but this current round of talks with six parties showed that things did not go as Japan really wants to see. I mean, there could be priorities set among the rest of the parties, and Japan will be forced to put the priorities among those issues, and the difficult choice that Japan has to make is to prioritize nuclear issues over abduction issues. The abduction issue is a very emotional issue and any political leaders cannot really proceed with nuclear issues without really addressing or getting the progress on the abduction issue. This could be politically fatal if any (inaudible) leader just abandons the (inaudible) abduction issue and just work on the nuclear issue. But as we all see, among the five parties, North Korea for example - South Korea, excuse me - South Korea for example, would not be too happy to see Japan bringing up the abduction issue, thinking that that will prevent the nuclear issue from making progress. This is a very difficult issue, and the only country which will help Japan to a great extent in terms of making progress with the abduction issue is the United States, and you see that President Bush granted an audience of the family - the parents of one of the abductees when they visited last year. And they regarded it as a great kind gesture of solidarity or a great gesture of help from the Bush Administration.
And other administrations - Prime Minister Abe has been elected to the Prime Minister with an enormous solidarity based on his very tough position against North Korea, and especially the abduction issue. So it is especially difficult for Prime Minister Abe or the (inaudible) administration to have any appeasing position or any posing which may be regarded as weak or soft on the abduction issue. And so he's trying to solve the abduction issue with all the political assets he has, but that ironically leads to the situation where the threshold will be raised and make it more difficult, and of course that strategy North Korea is trying to play, and so there is no way that Prime Minister Abe will make any concessions. But that's one of the challenges which Japan faces.
And of course its concern of isolation is not the total concern (inaudible) in Japan. Of course there is another kind of assessment about the result of the six-party talks regarding the abduction issue. Some of the abductees' families came out with a statement that it's been a great Japanese handling of this abduction issue in this current round of talks, because Japan succeeded in sending a very strong message to North Korea that without resolving the abduction issue, there is no way that they can expect economic assistance from Japan. And Prime Minister Abe himself came out today and said that North Korea really wants economic assistance from Japan. And so there's no way to give away - and the abduction issue is a strong tool and - sorry - economic assistance is a strong tool to solve the abduction issue, so there is no way to just give away the strong (inaudible) So Japan is hanging onto the principle that there's not going to be any economic assistance to North Korea as long as North Korea does not come out with more progress. So this is one challenge which Japan faces, especially Prime Minister Abe.
The other challenge Japan faces is sort of a different threat perception with the United States in terms of nuclear weaponry that North Korea has. As I touched upon previously, the red line of the U.S. Government regarding North Korea's nuclear weaponry is shifting from time to time, and it's kind of confusing for Japan to really follow. But Japan's red line hasn't moved a bit. For Japan, the possession of existing nuclear weapons by North Korea, no matter what - the number is small - is a clear and present danger - even if the warhead is one or two, it's a great danger for Japan because - there are a number of reasons. Geographically, Japan is right next to North Korea, as you know, and Japan lacks what they call strategic depth. You know, once we get hit by a nuclear weapon - not like the United States or China which have a vast geographical territory where perhaps you could still absorb or mitigate the kind of damage that a nuclear weapon can inflict - but in the case of Japan, even if it's (inaudible) small scale nuclear weapon, it could be large if used in Tokyo, for example - which is a nerve center in many ways in Japan - economic, political. The entire country would be paralyzed and destroyed. But we cannot - even one single nuclear warhead is fatal to Japan. And so from Japan's point of view, the dismantlement of existing nuclear weapons is really important. That's of the utmost importance. Of course, as I explained, the prevention of further development of their nuclear technology, and the further production of nuclear warheads constitute of course a threat to Japan, but that comes next - I wouldn't say secondary, but that comes next, and the dismantlement of existing nuclear warheads is important for the prevention of further development.
But this kind of (inaudible) is lacking from Japan's point view all through the six-party talks. I think especially there's a difference between the United States. I hope I don't get quoted. It seems to me that the United States doesn't feel too much threat or doesn't pay too much attention to the nuclear warheads or existing nuclear weapons, as long as they don't reach either Israel or Continental U.S.A. And the nuclear weapons in North Korea is a case in point. Of course, North Korea is developing an intercontinental ballistic missile which can deliver nuclear warheads across the Pacific (inaudible) but it's not proven. So - from Japan - I don't know whether it's true or not on the U.S. side, but from Japan it looks like the United States is not really feeling the same intensity of the threat as Japan feels from the existing nuclear weapons in North Korea. And that kind of perception is enhanced by the (inaudible) policy the United States is taking to deal with North Korea's nuclear weapons and most of the - one of the policies that the United States has been really working hard to set up in the multilateral framework to prevent the proliferation, and I have conducted a number of interviews with government officials, but (inaudible) I have a (inaudible) that the biggest threat for the United States is proliferation of nuclear weapons from North Korea, not the existing nuclear warheads in North Korea. So I think there is a fair discrepancy in the threat perception and also the strategy. And this is a challenge for Japan, too because we have to make the United States work toward the same goal as Japan has. So co-existence with a nuclear North Korea is something that is totally unacceptable for Japan, while it seems to me that - it's not okay, but it's not totally unacceptable for the United States, or the United States can live with it. That's another challenge Japan faces.
And of course, if I pose these questions to the U.S. government officials, they say, "Of course not! That's not true! You're wrong. The United States has U.S. forces deployed, almost 50,000 people - and a couple more times if you include the families- in Japan. So Japan's attack is equal to - attack on Japan is equal to attack on continental U.S.A." That's the explanation, I guess, but I still feel some doubt about this.
And so what's happening here in terms of North Korea? Japan's strength - Japan has an enormous self-imposed restriction on the two safeguards because of the peace constitution. We cannot use force as a means to solve international conflict. And so the coercive diplomacy - coercion is not a choice for Japanese political leadership to deal with international problems. And of course we have gone as far as economic sanction - and economic sanctions can be categorized as coercive diplomacy, but actually that's as far as we can go. So basically, Japan's tool of diplomacy is diplomatic persuasion or diplomatic persuasion with incentives, and that's our strength. Or I should say that's the only tool we have.
But in the case of North Korea, because of the mixture of those issues that I explained - the abduction issue and nuclear weapons problems - Japan ended up depending on the coercive means more than its diplomatic persuasion so this is a very ironic turn of events. Because of the choice Japan had to make - Japan ended up depending on the political tool which is weak and Japan cannot really make the best use of the strength that Japan has. That's the irony that Japan faces right now in dealing with North Korea.
Just real quick - regarding the North Korean nuclear tests - there have been lots of discussions in Japan about Japan going nuclear. I just want to explain that this is no choice, strategically no choice for Japan to make, and of course in a policy discussion or in discussions among the experts or in the media, there are lots about Japan going nuclear, but among the real experts or strategists, there is already a consensus made in Japan that this is no option because in terms of - strategically, there is a strategic necessity for Japan to probably go nuclear, especially to counter the North Korean weaponry and also China, perhaps. And financial affordability - it is affordable for Japan to go nuclear because once Prime Minister N (inaudible) but it's actually cheaper to go nuclear than to maintain conventional weapons, conventional capability that Japan has right now. And another criteria to look at this Japan going nuclear is the technology. And apparently, I think Japan has the technology. I think Japan has already a delivery system. The missiles. We don't call them missiles. We call them rockets. Japan has missiles with (inaudible) fuels which can carry the payload of 1 ton or so - which is large enough to turn it into ICBMs, and of course, Japan has a huge amount of - accumulation of plutonium, and so if Japan really chooses to go nuclear, I think Japan - some experts predict that it takes only several months for Japan to deploy (inaudible) nuclear weapons.
But another aspect of the technology which is testing - testing sites - as I said, Japan is such a small territory which lacks strategic depth - there is no place for us to test. As you know, for a plutonium warhead, you have to test, and so it's not totally technologically feasible. And the biggest problem is the political (inaudible), both domestic and international, and domestically there is still a strong anti-nuclear sentiment from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and also regionally. If Japan decides to go nuclear, you can easily imagine that China and other surrounding countries will feel a big threat, and eventually such a decision will de-stabilize the region and deteriorate the secure environment which is exactly the contrary to what Japan is trying to accomplish. So as I said, Japan going nuclear is really not an option. The Japanese government has done a confidential study about this issue a couple of times in the past, but in both cases the conclusion was that it's not an option.
This argument of Japan going nuclear has been used as a sort of rhetoric to pressure China to push North Korea to agree on this nuclearization, and it's really annoying from Japan's point of view to see the United States using this argument as a means - even as means to proceed - to pursue this nuclearization, and some emotional reaction from Japan is emerging that "perhaps we should go nuclear. The United States has said so." And this is really no option, as I said.
And one more thing about North Korea - perhaps it's about time that all the parties involved, not just the six-party members, but also the countries in the region have to think beyond the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. I mean, of course, it would take another decade or two before we get to total de-nuclearization of the peninsula, if we are lucky. But at the time as this process goes on, the level of threat being felt in the region will surely go down, and so with the lack of the North Korean threat, the make-up of the strategic environment in the region will be totally transformed. For example, the use of Japan (inaudible) Security Alliance - the (inaudible) of the region is to deal with the North Korean threat in terms of regional instability, the potential for regional instability - one is the Korean peninsula, the other is Taiwan State which I am going to talk about now. But if the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula really is achieved, one of those pre-conditions, one of the determining elements which currently make up security environment in the region will fundamentally change. So I think you will have a lot of (inaudible) And perhaps all those countries in the region have to start thinking about what kind of impact it will have and how we can deal with it. So this issue of beyond de-nuclearization is something that we have to think simultaneously with the de-nuclearization itself.
Next I'll talk about Taiwan real quick. In short, I think there's a wrong expectation or perception in terms of Japan's role in the Taiwan contingency. Not just in Taiwan but also in the mainland China. There is a good reason why they have this kind of (inaudible) I think the (inaudible) Japan is now ready to intervene in such a crisis to defend Taiwan along with the United States. This is a (inaudible) the possession on both (inaudible) I myself have encountered a lot of questions from both mainland China - people in mainland China and also Taiwan, and the reason why is kind of what I call misunderstanding. Basically it's twofold. One is - two plus two agreement on strategic objectives back in February 2002. I think some of you are very familiar with it, but in that document, there is a passage, an article, which talks about the Taiwan (inaudible) objective between Japan and the United States, and this was the first time that Japan has ever expressed in a clear official manner that the Taiwan State crisis is in Japan's interest. Of course, there was a time when this issue was mentioned in talks between Japanese - political leadership between both countries, but recently this is the only place where Japan came out so clear and talked about the Taiwan crisis as common strategic objectives with the United States.
The actual (inaudible) One of the common strategic objectives of Japan and the United States is "to encourage the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan State through dialogue." That's all. It says just that Japan and the United States encourage the peaceful resolution of issues through dialogue, not by force. That's the only thing that's said. But this has a really strong impact on the region, especially China and Taiwan, and this statement - this agreement was interpreted as if Japan decided to deter China from attacking Taiwan, and once deterrence is broken, that Japan will jump in and help the United States to defend Taiwan. And so I asked Japanese government officials about this widely shared perception and the Japanese government officials always say "that's a misunderstanding. That's not what we meant. But, of course, let's not be na´ve. If China thinks that Japan will take that plan of action and if China is deterred from taking that kind of wholesale aggressive action, that serves the interest of the region."
Of course, the Japanese government would never say that, and also if Taiwan's leadership thinks that's the case, maybe that may embolden Taiwan's leadership to abdicate (inaudible) But in that sense it doesn't serve the interest of the region. So it's a double-edged sword. It's a fact that such understanding is spreading in the region.
And the other reason why such a misunderstanding is emerging and getting stronger is the amendment, the recent amendment of the Self-Defense Forces role which was enacted actually last year and went into effect in January, which upgraded Japan's defense agency to (inaudible) from one of a subordinate government agency to a ministry - full Ministry. And, of course, it's a matter of formality in a legal sense, but this has also a very strong impact on the perception of Japan's policy in terms of the use of hard power.
And there is another - along with this upgrade of this ministry is the amendment which made Self-Defense Forces operations abroad, overseas - abroad - as one of the prime missions along with homeland defense, and the Self-Defense Forces used to have only homeland defense, basically, as their primary mission, but this amendment of the Self-Defense Forces role, now Self-Defense Forces operations abroad such as U.N. or the recent logistical support for the war on terrorism, Operation Iraq Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom, in both of them, Japan has these (inaudible) and, of course, Japan still has some restrictions on the use of force, so we do not actually get involved in the combat situation. We just either do supplies, oil and water, and those kind of logistical operations. But still it was a big jump from the time when Japan limited the operation of Self-Defense Forces just in Japan and just for the defense of Japan.
So this change in law also intensified the kind of misunderstanding that Japan will help Taiwan to defend itself.
Perhaps in terms of capabilities, Japan has already (inaudible) to do such a logistical for U.S. forces military, especially the Navy, when they really decided to intervene (inaudible). We have already deployed our Japanese navy ships to the Indian Ocean to do supply work for (inaudible) So perhaps it's not too much of a problem - a challenge for Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces to fulfill that kind of a supporting mission for the United States. And legally speaking also, there is a law which will enable Self-Defense Forces to do such a mission as long as the situation is considered a situation surrounding Japan. That's a legal term - Japan enacted that law in order to evade a clear statement that means Korea and Taiwan. But actually - there's a legal framework around that. So it's possible perhaps, feasible, and legally as long as folks (inaudible) but the problem is again, intention (inaudible) whether it would be possible for Japanese political leadership to jump in (inaudible) conflict between Taiwan and the mainland China, or mainland China and the United States, because it boils down to the question that - whether Japan is ready to go to war against China over Taiwan. And the reason is that China is - in a number of official channels - once Japan decided to extend logistical support to U.S. forces which will get involved in a conflict with mainland China, China will (inaudible) such a supporting activity at the war. So they say they would attack Japan for that. And for example - I don't know - this is just a (inaudible), but they may launch a missile to come in our Air Force Base in Okinawa, for example. It's been talked about seriously. And if attacked on Japan's soil, according to Japan's legal framework, Japan can initiate a defensive war against China. And so even if Japan limits activity to logistical supporting, a marginal role to the U.S. forces which will be mainly taking up a combat operation, if Japan is attacked by China, it doesn't make too much difference in terms of what Japan has to do.
Of course, this is the kind of logic China uses to prevent Japan from helping the United States, but there is some truth in it. So the question that the Japanese political leadership is facing - if this kind of situation happens - is whether we risk going to war with China for the democracy of Taiwan. And this is a really rough decision to make. And I don't know what kind of decision the Japanese political leadership would make at the time. It's not an easy decision to make. And just to remind you, Japanese Self- Defense Forces has never had any casualties - combat casualties ever since the end of World War II ever since the Self-Defense Forces were established. They haven't had any combat casualties at all. And another thing is that all through the history of Japan, Japan has never fought a war for values, for ideals. So - for the democracy of Taiwan, that's a tough decision for the Japanese political leadership to make.
And finally, I would like to explain that there is a lot of talk about normalization of Japan. Japan is finally going normal. And I think all those changes that I explained may indicate that Japan is lifting, maybe, even partially the self-imposed restrictions on the use of force that I explained. It is true - the partial lifting of the self-imposed restrictions is true. But does this mean that Japan decides to use its hard power to shape the regional order, or even global order? This is an open question, and there haven't been any (inaudible) made on the part of Japan, that Japan really decided to use its hard power in order to shape the (inaudible) environment or world order. And I think it is only natural to support that Japanese is going into that direction if you look at all those decisions and changes made, but it hasn't reached that point yet. And so that's the basic misunderstanding of what's happening in Japan that leads to the kind of misunderstanding as I said about Japan's defending Taiwan. And also again, this also applies to the way Japan deals with the North Korean issue. As I said, Japan is (inaudible) decision tilting toward more of a coercive way of diplomacy, but as I said, Japan still has not really come to the point where we can use the hard power to coerce action by the other countries yet, so there's a mis-match of the actual tool and the policy.
So all those problems of power, (inaudible) boil down to this question whether Japan has really come to the point of the normalization where Japan will use the hard power to shape the order to the interests of Japan - so it hasn't come to that point yet.
Thank you very much.
END OF KATO PRESENTATION
QUESTION: John Bolton (inaudible) ... he was also the prime mover behind the (inaudible)
KATO: As far as PSI, there's a clear objective to stop the proliferation, and as I said, perhaps proliferation is more important than for Japan, but still it's important for Japan. So there is a clear shared interest there. But in terms of counter-balancing China, this is something more - much broader and hard for Japan to really just sign off on. And so I don't think the United States has stated it in that blunt way, but what the U.S. is saying is that, like-minded countries - what countries which share the values - democracy - could do together. And they talk about also to include India - India, Japan, Australia. But it remains to be seen. I'm rather skeptical that you can really set up any kind of (inaudible) in Asia based on the values. But the White House has really (inaudible), so I will see. I'll see how it works.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
END OF KATO and Q&A