Japan Institute for National Fundamentals
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Speaking out

Hiroshi Yuasa

【#419】Japan Should Accept Responsibility Sharing with U.S.

Hiroshi Yuasa / 2017.02.02 (Thu)


January 30, 2017

     How will the Japan-U.S. alliance survive under the unpredictable Trump administration? New U.S. President Donald Trump in his inaugural address said, “We will reinforce old alliances.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has positioned the Japan-U.S. alliance as a “permanent alliance.” But President Trump has buried the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and criticized Japan for unfair trade practices in the image of bilateral trade frictions in the 1980s. The future of the Japan-U.S. alliance indispensable to deter China is unforeseeable. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis’s first visit to Japan in early February will provide an opportunity to confirm that any alliance is based on a “give and take” relationship.

Trump to expand demands to Tokyo
     Trump’s inaugural speech dropped the traditional U.S. values of freedom and democracy and emphasized an “America First” approach focusing solely on a profit-and-loss arithmetic. During presidential election campaigns, he said: “If we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to do anything. They can sit home and watch Sony television.” His view on Japan is perverse. Based on such view, Trump will ask Japan to increase its share of costs for U.S. forces stationed in Japan and of responsibility for its defense. At a summit meeting with Abe in mid-February, the U.S. president may call for a new Japan-U.S. trade agreement, proposing some kind of “deal.”
     As far as the Trump administration confronts with China over Taiwan and South China Sea problems, the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance will not decline. As Trump questions the “One China” principle considering Taiwan as part of China and plans to “defend international interests (in the South China Sea) from being taken over by one country” as noted by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, the U.S. forward deployment bases in Japan will remain of great strategic value. As the president has simply dismissed the “One China” principle, panicky China may grow probable to use force. Now that Trump made a remark doubting the principle, any U.S. failure to demonstrate its deterrence could endanger Taiwan.

“Exclusively defensive” posture is outdated
     The Trump administration will take up a theory of responsibility sharing, insisting that the United States bears more burden than Japan by stationing U.S. forces in Japan. In reality, Japan shoulders more than 70% of costs for U.S. forces in Japan. The share is far higher than in South Korea or Germany. Any increase in the share would mean that U.S. troops in Japan could effectively become mercenaries. In the past, during the George H.W. Bush administration plagued with budget deficits, Japan shouldered U.S. costs for economic assistance to Latin America under a burden-sharing agreement.
     In the future, Japan will be asked for responsibility sharing, being requested to accept more military responsibility. Even without such U.S. request, Japan should voluntarily offer to become more responsible for its defense in the face of China’s expansionism and North Korea’s nuclear intimidation. Specifically, Japan should deter China by purchasing sophisticated U.S. weapons and deter North Korea by becoming capable of attacking enemy bases. Japan should revise its “exclusively defensive” posture, make the Japan-U.S. alliance more reciprocal and enhance Japan’s self-reliance, and proceed to the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the amendment of the Japanese Constitution.

Hiroshi Yuasa is a Planning Committee Member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a columnist for the Sankei Shimbun.