Renewing Old Promises and Exploring New Frontiers

The Tokyo Foundation and the Center for a New American Security have released a Joint Statement that reviews the achievements of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty since its signing five decades ago and offers policy proposals that the leaders of the two governments should pursue in the years ahead.

A joint news conference announcing the release of “Renewing Old Promises and Exploring New Frontiers: The Japan-U.S. Alliance and the Liberal International Order” was held on October 27 at the Tokyo Foundation. The gist of the statement is as follows. The full report may also be downloaded as a PDF file.

Defending a Liberal International Order

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The Japan-U.S. alliance remains vital because it not only advances mutual interests in security and the economy but also because it serves as a pillar of a liberal international order sustained by common values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. It was this order that facilitated economic growth and the development of democratic institutions in many Asian countries and also promoted regional cooperation. It also aided economic reform in China from the late 1970s onward and enabled the country’s remarkable rise.

One key component of the liberal international order has been access to the global commons, i.e. the maritime, air, space, and cyber domains that connect the world. A new core role that the Japan-U.S. alliance should serve is to ensure that the global commons remain available to all nations in the world. To this end, the two allies should play a joint leadership role in further developing and creating international legal provisions governing the use of the global commons.

Renewing Old Promises

Traditional alliance functions or “old promises”—deterrence and crisis response—should be updated to reflect the security dynamics in Northeast Asia, including shifts in the balance of power caused by the rise of China and developments on the Korean Peninsula.

The pace and scope of China’s military buildup have been remarkable, prompting the United States to keep a close eye on China’s anti-access and area denial capability. Tokyo and Washington will henceforth need to make more effective use of their respective portfolios of alliances and partnerships in Asia. At the same time, a Japan-U.S.-China trilateral dialogue should be established to address the management of the global commons, among other issues.

With growing concern over the stability and long-term prospects of the regime in Pyongyang and the potential for a very fluid situation on the Korean Peninsula, close policy coordination among Japan, the United States, and South Korea is essential. In addition, Tokyo and Washington should adopt a bold approach of applying multilayered forms of pressure to significantly raise the cost of North Korea’s continuing nuclear ambitions. For this to work, China must be encouraged to join an effective sanctions regime.

Exploring New Frontiers

The alliance must also function effectively in dealing with security issues at “new frontiers,” where Japan can demonstrate its strength as a global civilian power. Of primary importance are humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. As shown in the case of the December 2004 tsunami, the U.S. Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) can provide rapid and much needed “strategic lift” in response to disaster and humanitarian crises. Japan and the United States should enhance their interoperability and engage in continuous exercises and exchanges.

There is room in both countries for further cooperation with the private sector, and U.S. forces and the JSDF should enhance their dialogue with civil society. Japan should also engage more broadly in civilian activities and coordinate its activities with Official Development Assistance (ODA) in order to enable an “All-Japan” response.

It is essential that nuclear energy be promoted without increasing the threat of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. Japan and the United States should work together to establish universal norms for the international nuclear business and the transaction of sensitive nuclear technologies and materials.

In order to coordinate mutual roles and bilateral cooperation regarding Official Development Assistance, the Japanese and U.S. governments should launch a 2+2+2 working-level dialogue among foreign policy, defense, and aid agency officials.

Reinforcing the Alliance’s Foundation

The Japanese debate on the alliance should focus on real policy issues rather than delving into abstract arguments about “dependence” and “equality.” To prevent the alliance from becoming a source of partisan conflict, a central support base needs to be built and maintained.

Within the Japanese government, the prime minister’s leadership is a prerequisite for strong alliance management. The establishment of a national security office (NSO) could contribute toward this end, with outside experts joining career government officials to determine policy approaches. Alongside a new NSO, a solid intellectual base for security policy debate should be developed and a community of security policy experts cultivated.

Japan and the United States should also upgrade the interoperability of their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

The basic notions of where Japan stands and where it is headed should be shared by the Japanese people. Tokyo and Washington should interact with and more fully articulate the enduring values of the alliance to the Japanese public. The United States should take additional measures to defuse local tensions stemming from the presence of American troops in Japan, and, whenever feasible, U.S. bases should be co-located with Japanese bases to ease local concerns. Needless to say, Japan and the United States should make additional efforts to redress the disproportionate basing burden borne by Okinawa in the postwar years.

Tokyo Foundation

Center for a New American Security