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Tokyo's New Military Guidelines Based on Old Principle: U.S. Does Defending, Japan Gets Defended

May 1, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Washington in style, with a state dinner and speech to Congress. He brought with him plans for a more expansive international role for his country, but the military burden of defending Japan will continue to fall disproportionately on America.

World War II still hangs over Japan and its relations with neighboring states. As occupying power, the U.S. imposed the “peace constitution” on Tokyo, with Article Nine banning possession of a military. As the Cold War developed, however, Washington recognized that a rearmed Japan could play an important security role.

Japanese officials equaled American politicians in creatively interpreting their nation’s fundamental law—Tokyo established “Self-Defense Forces” as opposed to armed forces. However, Japan’s governments hid between the amendment to cap military outlays and limit the SDF’s role, ensuring American protection.

That approach also suited Tokyo’s neighbors, including other U.S. allies, most of which had suffered under Imperial Japan’s brutal occupation. Although not everyone was hostile to Tokyo, Australia, the Philippines, and South Korea especially preferred Japan disarmed and Washington as military guardian. Marine Corps Gen. Henry Stackpole famously referred to U.S. troops in Japan as a “cap in the bottle” to remilitarization.

As America’s economic edge ebbed and the international security challenges grew, Washington urged Tokyo to do more, though under U.S. direction. Movement was glacial, however. Although some members of the ruling LDP, such as Abe, who previously served as prime minister, shared a more nationalist perspective, policy change was limited by the pacifist-minded population. In recent years, however, Japanese sentiment has shifted toward a more vigorous military role in the face of an unpredictable North Korea developing both missiles and nuclear weapons and a powerful China growing more confrontational.

This changing environment generated the new “Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation,” formally released on Tuesday. Yet the much-heralded document—the first revision in 18 years—might deliver less than promised. The guidelines are only aspirational and state that they create no obligations for either government.

More important, the presentation is about Japanese, not American security. In essence, the new standards affirm what should have been obvious all along—Japan will help America defend Japan. For instance, the guidelines discuss responding to “emerging threats to Japan’s peace and security” and “an armed attack against Japan.” Washington commits to “continue to forward deploy combat-ready forces in the Asia-Pacific region and maintain the ability to reinforce those forces rapidly.” In contrast, there is nothing about Tokyo supporting …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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