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Sankei Shimbun, Japan

Japan Must Repair “Strong Alliance”

Translated By Tom Derbish

4 January 2013

Edited by Rachel Smith

Japan - Sankei Shimbun - Original Article (Japanese)

In the last year, the threat level in East Asia has reached new heights. The peace and safety of Japan in particular has been threatened by sudden changes to its security environment.

Japan must prepare for continued Chinese incursions into the territorial waters and airspace of the Senkaku Islands, as well as long-range ballistic missile tests and a possible third nuclear weapons test from North Korea.

This situation has been brought about, in large part, over the last three years under the Democratic Party administration by the deterioration of the Japan-U.S. alliance and its effectiveness as a deterrent. In order to repel China's aggression and stand up to the threats of North Korea, Japan must work to repair the old “strong alliance” with the U.S. However, Japan must also be willing to take on the risks and responsibilities necessary to create the kind of cooperative security agreement that these times demand.

Missile Interception Is Essential

A leadership summit between Japan and the U.S. would be a good first step in this process. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was recently re-elected after his numerous calls for crisis avoidance, is slated to take his first trip to the U.S. this month. We must keep in step with U.S. President Barack Obama as he enters his second term in office, and dedicate all of our national energy to maintaining peace in Asia and constructing a foundation of self-defense in Japan.

In a telephone conversation at the end of last year, Prime Minister Abe told President Obama, "Japan and the U.S. must work together to foster peace and security in Asia. We are prepared to fulfill our responsibilities to prevent a collapse of the power balance in the region." It is absolutely necessary to address the rise of China's military and their coercive naval advancements as threats to global peace. Failing to recognize this problem could have been the American administration's largest error.

There are several issues Japan must act on if it wishes to strengthen its alliance with the U.S.

First, we must make the necessary changes to the constitution to allow the right to collective self-defense and avoid the past interpretation that we may possess but not use a military.

Prime Minister Abe, in a report created by a panel of experts during his first term of office in 2006 and 2007, laid out four scenarios in which action should be approved, including the interception of a ballistic missile directed at the U.S.

Missile interception was also described at the time by the U.S. Ambassador to Japan as an urgent issue and a responsibility of the alliance. It is definitely a prerequisite to strengthening the alliance.

After forming his cabinet at the end of last year, Prime Minister Abe said he would once again like to hear the report and advance the discussion. Escorting U.S. vessels in the Pacific, participating in active international peacekeeping operations and responding to Chinese aggression have also become issues. The Komeito Party, allied with Prime Minister Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, has been cautious in supporting these actions. However, we would like to see the prime minister exercise his powers and quickly bring about these changes in the constitutional interpretation.

There is also an urgent need to revise the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. The current guidelines, decided in 1997, did not anticipate Chinese incursions into Japanese waters or the attacks on the Senkaku Islands. We must review the form of these collaborative guidelines and rid them of their current failings.

Finally, we must move forward on the Futenma military base issue. Last spring, an agreement was reached between the Japan and the U.S. to separate the Futenma base issue from the transfer of U.S. naval forces stationed in Okinawa to Guam. However, we must not forget that the deployment and dispersion of U.S. naval forces in Japan plays an essential part of the comprehensive containment of China. If the reorganization of U.S. forces is too slow, the ability of the alliance to deter Chinese aggression will be compromised.

Willingness to Negotiate TPP

On the other hand, security and economics will be the driving forces behind U.S. President Barack Obama's second term Asia-Pacific policy. An important pillar of this policy will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. The U.S. is expecting an announcement from Japan that we are willing to participate in negotiations.

The TPP is intended to bind together various nations that value free trade and democracy in order to urge China to respect that model. China has created its own free trade framework in an effort to resist the U.S. We would like to see Prime Minister Abe give a clear sign during his visit to the U.S. that Japan plans to participate in these negotiations with the goal of bringing further prosperity to the Asian region.

In strengthening our U.S. alliance, it is absolutely necessary that we perform a comprehensive analysis of our foreign diplomacy, military, and economy. The creation of a National Security Council, as Prime Minister Abe has promised to do, would be an appropriate step forward. We would like to see immediate measures taken to increase defense spending and strengthen our coast guard forces.

Last summer, a report from pro-Japan groups in the U.S. questioned whether “Japan is content with being a second-rate nation.” This shows that the desire for a restoration of the Japan-U.S. alliance is strong on the U.S. side as well. What is most important is to start from the ground up to create a new message and revise the diplomatic and security policies of the previous administration, which reduced our faith in the alliance with the U.S. and gave up critical national interests to China.

Prime Minister Abe's trip to the U.S. will also be an excellent opportunity to create a good communicative relationship with incoming Secretary of State John Kerry and his colleagues. To truly reconstruct a strong alliance, we must also improve relations with South Korea. Only with a close collaboration among Japan, the U.S. and South Korea will we be able to face the threats from China and North Korea. Much like we at the Sankei Newspaper proposed the year before last in our plan for revisions to the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, both nations must forge a completely reciprocal self-defense arrangement.



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