The U.S. and Japan held a summit marking the critical turning point of World War II 70 years after the war. Reconciliation between these two once combatant nations was made possible by the great effort of its current leaders. However, it cannot be described as an “alliance” when one side merely obeys the other without saying a word.
The summit between Prime Minister Abe and President Obama took place at the White House. After the talks, the two leaders announced a “Shared Vision Joint Statement” and commented on the shift of U.S.-Japan relations from being once an “enemy state” to being now a “steadfast ally.”
For Japan, it was the first official visit to the U.S. by a prime minister in nine years, since Junichiro Koizumi visited in 2006. It was described as a cordial reception, demonstrated by Obama’s offer to serve as a special Lincoln Memorial tour guide for Abe.
Renunciation of War Marks the Starting Point of the Postwar Period
At the beginning of the joint press conference, Obama started off by saying in Japanese, “Otagai no tame ni,” meaning, “with and for each other,” followed by, “This is the essence of the alliance between the United States and Japan — an alliance that holds lessons for the world … I want to thank [Abe] for your visit to Arlington National Cemetery. Your gesture is a powerful reminder that the past can be overcome …”
In response to Obama’s initial comments, Abe stated, “We have a dream — that is to create a world abounding in peace and prosperity. To realize this common dream, Japan and the United States will together pave the way toward a new era.”
These two nations reconciled from the flames of a war 70 years ago, and today they are combining forces for world peace and prosperity. This reconciliation can be a lesson for the world, as it is a favorable relationship that this paper hopes spreads to all corners of the globe.
We want to reflect once more on the immediate postwar aftermath, when Japan decided to never again engage in a war of aggression, and further enshrined such sentiment in the Japanese Constitution.
In the postwar period, the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty was concluded and revised, allowing U.S. troops to be stationed in Japan. Additionally, Japan now has a self-defense force, its own version of a military force. But under a “nonaggressive defense” policy, Japan has also worked toward restrained defense build-up and security guarantees. These factors are directly linked to Japan’s postwar prosperity, and are the main reason Japan has not again become a reason for military concern in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Constitution Should Be Limited
In fact, in the Asia-Pacific region, the rise of China has been grounds for concern, and is a major factor in this U.S.-Japan summit, where both sides are determined to strengthen ties with each other.
Abe stated at the joint press conference, “We are united in our resoluteness in opposing unilateral attempts to change the status quo in whatever form.” Further, Obama alluded to a concern shared by the U.S. and Japan regarding China’s land reclamation and construction activities in the South China Sea.
Both the U.S. and Japanese governments will have China in mind while revising the guidelines for the U.S.-Japan defensive cooperation agreement, and both governments believe strengthening coordination between U.S. and Japanese forces to coincide with the top-level talks will increase deterrence.
The two countries’ rush to an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) indicates their desire to be the first governments to create new trade rules in the Pacific. Also, U.S.-Japan nonparticipation in China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) most likely sends a cautionary signal to China.
China is already the world’s second largest economy, and most believe it will continue to grow. As President Obama stated, a “peaceful rise” should be “welcom[ed].” China cannot be allowed to change the status quo through power or force, and thus, persistent resistance must continue.
Prime Minister Abe said, “Any dispute should be resolved peacefully based on international law and not through coercion or intimidation.” This statement is all the more fitting coming from the prime minister of Japan, which is a nation with a constitution grounded in peace.
However, new revised guidelines for Japan’s self-defense force will drastically increase the role of the self-defense force and expand the areas over which it can take action, as well its overall global scale. The idea of “exercising the right of collective self-defense,” which for many years had been rejected by the government, is now in the forefront of leaders’ minds.
This new policy would reverse provisions within the constitution toward a “nonaggressive defense policy,” which does not allow for military intervention by Japan abroad, and the framework within the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which limits the scope of allowable activity to the Far East.
We cannot allow Japan to lose the trust of its neighbors by appearing to harbor intentions of becoming a large military superpower, and ultimately falling into a “security guarantees dilemma” because of a regional arms race. Incitement due to force is never constructive.
America’s warm reception of the new guidelines is a result of the agreement’s contents — specifically pertaining to the two allies’ role-sharing — falling in line with U.S. expectations. Even if Abe shares the same aims as the U.S., shouldn't his first job as the prime minister of Japan be to convey the limits of the Japanese constitution, rather than sympathize with U.S. desires? It is not right to force overhaul on security agreements and stifle objections domestically by using agreements with the United States as a shield.
Disregard for Okinawa’s Opposition
On the subject of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station (located in Ginowan City, Okinawa), Abe, alluding to opposition posed by Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga to an inter-Okinawa plan to relocate the air station to the Henoko area of Nago, confirmed the Henoko relocation as the sole solution agreed to by both leaders. Not conveying Governor Onaga’s opposition to the plan during the summit is tantamount to ignoring the will of the Okinawan people. An alliance which calls for one area to be overburdened with 74 percent of the American forces in Japan is a lopsided alliance.
If the Henoko relocation continues to be forced, other U.S. bases will face hostility from local people and the alliance will begin to falter. In this case, we will no longer be able to describe ourselves as “steadfast allies.”