The Heritage Foundation

WebMemo #31 on Asia

August 22, 2001

August 22, 2001 | WebMemo on Asia

Speech at the Nippon Conference on the Constitution of Japan

In the earliest days of the presidential campaign, George W. Bush distinguished himself from his opponents by announcing that he would focus his foreign policies on strengthening ties with allies that share interests and values with the United States.  As a candidate, George Bush made it clear that he would strengthen ties with nations that shared America's fundamental values like democracy, free trade, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.  And since taking office, the Bush Administration has taken steps to rekindle close relations with its allies in Asia and declared that the United States would support Taiwan in case of a Chinese attack.

The complete foreign policy team for the administration has not yet been named, and confirmed officials have filled less than one third of the positions.  Nevertheless, the President Bush demonstrated early that he meant what he said in the campaign.  Despite differences with South Korea over missile defense, Presidents Bush and Kim Dae-jung reached a consensus on the importance of close coordination on security, political and economic matters.   Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori also visited the White House in the early days of the Bush presidency to demonstrate the commitment to strong relations with Japan.  And President Bush was careful to ensure that Prime Minister Mori and President Kim were received in the White House before any representative from China.  This emphasis on principle by President Bush is important, and demonstrates the commitment by the administration to alliance relations.   I amheartened that the first comments on foreign policy by newly elected Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi included a commitment to a strong U.S.-Japan alliance.

Only after reaching an understanding of interests with America's allies, including Australia, did Bush begin a dialogue with China.  President Bush focused on common interests shared between China and the United States when he met with visiting Vice Premier Qian Qichen, but he made it clear that the United States intends to meet its obligations to Taiwan under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.  Now on two occasions, the collision between a Chinese fighter aircraft and a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft, and when he announced a new arms sales package to Taiwan, President Bush has demonstrated that, while he seeks good relations with China, he will respond to Chinese threats and coercion with firm resolve.

I expect that same approach to be used with North Korea.  Bush stands ready to work with South Korea and Japan on mutual interests over North Korea, but he will respond to blackmail and threats from Kim Jong-il with firmness and resolve.

The Pentagon has started a strategic review of its own capabilities and the forces required to meet American responsibilities in Asia.  This will result in some changes in the way that American forces are deployed in the region.  One thing is clear; China's military build-up, and its sale of missiles and advanced weaponry, will be a continuous challenge to the United States and Japan.  This will result in a strategy that devotes more forces to contingencies in Asia, but does not necessarily mean an increase in forward-deployed forces in Korea and Japan.  More emphasis will be placed on Guam and on rapid deployment for U.S. forces.  One diplomatic achievement of the Clinton Administration will continue, the trilateral consultation process among Japan, South Korea and the United States over policy toward North Korea.  North Korea is chafing because President Bush did not rush to a dialogue with them, but I expect talks with North Korea to continue in due course so long as they are based on dialogue and not blackmail from Pyongyang. 

One striking difference in approaches to security between President Bush and President Bill Clinton is the commitment of Bush and his entire foreign policy team to ballistic missile defenses to protect deployed U.S. forces, American allies, and the United States.  The Administration has started a dialogue with allies, as well as with China and Russia, over ballistic missile defenses that will alter the strategic landscape in the Asia-Pacific region.  It also could be a catalyst for a reinterpretation, or even revision, of the constitution of Japan.    

With respect to the defense review I discussed earlier, I expect that the review of defense policies in the Pentagon will consider other options for overseas basing of forward-deployed troops.  Among the options under consideration are:

  • Reducing dependents, housing and schooling;
  • Unit rotations of battalions or brigades, fully trained, onto
    equipment that is left at forward bases;
  • A "short-term deployment model" (keeping troops deployed for 90-120 days, then returning them home);

One advantage of this last idea is that it reduces the need for extensive maneuver training areas in a host country.  Of course, this last option is more expensive for the United States, and brings far less money into the economy of the host country, which could have a severe economic effect in a place like Okinawa.

The new strategy that comes out of the Pentagon will take advantage of fast transportation.  This will help to reduce the "footprint" of people on ground with rapid transport (that is, fewer bases and forward-deployed troops may be required).  And it will require logistics that get supplies when and where they are needed quickly.  And this is where the cooperation of allies and the renewed U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines become important.

There are a number of ways that Japan and the United States can strengthen their cooperation for the future.  Consider some of the suggestions of former Assistant Secretaries of Defense Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye and their colleagues in the report of October 11, 2000, The United States and Japan: Advancing Toward a Mature Partnership.    Options like making more advanced U.S. defense technology available to Japan, more robust joint military exercises, and true partnership in intelligence sharing follow from the suggestions in the Armitage/Nye report.   Japan is now considering steps that would tighten its national security laws, establishing real penalties for revealing classified information or spying for another power.  If the Diet approves these stronger security measures it will create conditions more conducive to increased defense cooperation.           

Given the missile threat Japan faces, why shouldn't self-defense forces have some form of early warning satellite?  Geo-stationary missile launch-detection satellites over Japan would detect launches from China, North Korea, and Russia.  Such satellites could alert Japan's air defense and ballistic missile defense forces of a hostile launch, and, with data sharing, the information could also be utilized by the United States.  More robust intelligence and defense cooperation between Japan and the United States would strengthen the alliance and provide better protection for the citizens of both nations.  And, with their combined diplomatic and economic strength and influence, Japan and the United States could remind China's arms suppliers, whether Russia or European allies of the United States that the dangers posed by their weapons and technology sales to China create instability in Asia.           

Japan does not have forces deployed all around the world like the United States; therefore a global satellite network is probably not necessary for the defense of Japan.  A geo-stationary system designed for missile defense that is over Japanese territory could hardly be objectionable to any other country in Asia, or be taken as a threat. 

The deployment and use of such a system has important implications for both countries.  I believe that achieving alliance partnership requires serious reinterpretation, or even revision, of Article 9 of the Constitution.  Some in the United States and Asia will argue that it is dangerous if Japan reinterprets or revises its constitution.  I would welcome such a review.  I would be pleased if it was possible for Japan to intercept a ballistic missile passing near its territory but aimed at the United States.  And I think that Japan should be prepared to send self-defense forces outside the area on United Nations related missions.  This would permit the United States and even NATO allies to share their command and control systems as well as intelligence with Japan.

In summary, a strong alliance serves the national interests of both the United States and Japan. Americans will welcome a constitutional change that allows Japan to be a stronger, more active alliance partner.  And I am sure the Bush administration would welcome and support democratic change to Japan's constitution.           

Dr. Larry M. Wortzel  is Director, Asian Studies Center, The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Larry M. Wortzel, Ph.D. Visiting Fellow
The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

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