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Japan's New Defense Guidelines Encourage U.S. Confrontation with China

June 9, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Japan has always been Washington’s number one Asian ally. That was demonstrated with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to Washington, highlighted by a speech to Congress. Unfortunately, the relationship increases the likelihood of a confrontation between the U.S. and China.

World War II ended 70 years ago, but Tokyo’s international role remains stunted. The U.S. occupation authorities imposed the “peace constitution” with Article Nine, which forbids possession of a military. Although Japanese governments conveniently interpreted that provision to allow “Self-Defense Forces,” Tokyo sharply limited their role and budgets.

Public sentiment has shifted toward greater foreign involvement out of concern with both North Korea and the People’s Republic of China. Nevertheless, a recent Pew Research survey indicated that two-thirds of Japanese do not want a more active military. Public opposition has forced the Abe government to temper its plans.

During Prime Minister Abe’s visit the two governments released new “Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation.” The document clearly sets America against China.

None of this makes sense from America’s standpoint.”

First, the guidelines’ rewrite targets China. Japan’s greatest security concern is the ongoing Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute and Tokyo had pushed hard for an explicit U.S. guarantee for the unpopulated rocks. Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed the idea that navigation and overflight freedom were “privileges granted by big states to small ones,” leaving no doubt what he meant. Questions and answers at the Abe-Obama press conference reflected great concern with Beijing. Noted Geoff Dyer in the Financial Times: “the threat that ties together [various allied] initiatives is the growing anxiety across Asia about a more powerful China.”

Second, Japan’s promise to do more is merely a wish; the document stated that it created no “legal rights or obligations.” President Obama admitted: “it’s important to recognize we do not expect some instant and major transformation in terms of how Japan projects military power.” Tokyo will remain reluctant to act outside of core Japanese interests.

Third, though the new document removes geographical limits from Japanese operations, most of Japan’s new international responsibilities appeared to be essentially social work (what Prime Minister Abe called “human security”). In his speech to Congress the prime minister said his nation would “take yet more responsibility for the peace and stability in the world,” but cited humanitarian and peace-keeping operations as examples.

Moreover, the guidelines indicate that the SDF’s military involvement will be “from the rear and not on offensive operations,” noted …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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