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Home > Opinions Last Updated: 15:02 03/09/2007
July 2001

Foreign and Security Policy Issues for the Koizumi Administration

Satoshi MORIMOTO (Professor, Takushoku University)


It is widely recognized in Japan that reforms must now be carried out in all areas of society, and whether the Japanese can build a new, prosperous and stable nation to achieve a higher quality of life depends on the outcome of such reforms. The extremely high popularity rate for the Koizumi administration is based on the public's strong expectations for actions to carry out such reforms by the new administration. That is why the Koizumi reform should be one without "sacred cows," and must be wider-ranging from political, economic and social fields to foreign relations, security and defense fields.

When we look at current international situations, trends toward globalization are progressing in such fields as finance and information, but their shadows are giving pains to the international community. Therefore, we are facing the question of how to reconcile cooperative multi-nationalism and individual national interests. With regard to East Asian situations surrounding Japan, China is definitely increasing its power projection capability and influence, although its future prospects are somewhat uncertain. Furthermore, relations among such superpowers as the U.S., Russia and China and also developments in the north-south relations in the Korean Peninsula will have a strong impact on the East Asian region as a whole.

In the United States, which has become increasingly influential over the international community in general and Asia-Pacific situations in particular in the post cold-war era, the new Bush administration was born at the beginning of the year 2001. The Bush administration is trying to set up national strategies with focus on national defense first and then adopt individual and regional policies within their strategic framework, while the administration's policy stance seems to be more and more oriented towards U.S national interests. In view of the fact that the Bush administration is emphasizing Asia based on their China strategy as well as allied strategy, special attention should be paid to the Bush administration's Asia-Pacific policy, which will become the main factor in determining East Asian situations, and their effort to construct a new security system with allied and friendly nations for the purpose of establishing a missile defense system.

Expectations for Prime Minister Koizumi

Regarding future prospects for East Asia, given the present condition, it is clear that Japan should strengthen and enlarge the Japan-U.S. alliance not only for the sake of East Asia but also for Japan's prosperity and stability. The U.S. is expecting the Koizumi administration to make concrete efforts to strengthen Japan's alliance with the U.S., which is pursuing Bush's Asia-Pacific policy, and to promote cooperation between the two countries for peace and stability not only in East Asia but also in the international community as a whole. These broad expectations by the U.S. of Japan as a U.S. ally have recently been expressed in various reports from the U.S. side, including the Armitage report.

One might appreciate Prime Minister Koizumi's emphasis on his reluctance to move forward to deal with Japan's "collective defense right issue" and to study and examine the missile defense issue, as well as his more positive attitude toward the strengthening of the Japan-U.S. alliance than his predecessors since the birth of his administration. It is essential to translate these directions into concrete policies through the legislative process, but that would be quite difficult unless the Prime Minister and his fellow members exercise strong political leadership. Such moves will constitute the execution of his reforms in the field of foreign relations, national security and defense.

On the other hand, it appears that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not functioning properly as an organization that should plan and design various policies and engage in international negotiations, if necessary, in the foreign relations and national defense field. We also must express our grave concern over the fact that there has recently been little policy dialogue between Japan and the U.S., which could have a serious impact on the management of the Japan-U.S. alliance. We need to restore the functions of the foreign ministry in charge of foreign relations and national security matters as soon as possible in order to strengthen the Japan-US alliance and pursue our cooperative relations with advanced nations. Under this condition regarding the Foreign Ministry, in order to avoid any emergency situation we should consider setting up a policy advisory council in foreign relations and national security matters to assist the Prime Minister in planning and designing governmental policies in these matters.

Most Important Issues for Japan

At any rate, it is important for the sake of Japan's prosperity and stability that current issues regarding the Japan-U.S. alliance be resolved under strong political leadership to be exercised by Prime Minister Koizumi. From the viewpoint of strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance, the most important issues that the Koizumi administration must currently deal with as part of its structural reform in the foreign relations and security field are as follows:

1. Strategy towards China and Strategic Dialogue with the U.S.
First, Japan should set up a clear strategy towards China from the long-term viewpoint, and engage in strategic dialogue with the U.S. in order to establish a constructive relationship between the two countries, as the Bush administration is formulating a new China policy and pursuing its strategies towards Asia. Japan is facing various issues involving China, such as the Taiwan issue, the Yasukuni Shrine issue, the history textbook issue, the safeguard issue, etc. In dealing with these issues, it is important for Japan to pursue its strategy towards China, not only by strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance on the basis of the U.S. defense strategy towards Asia, but also by building closer cooperative relations with other Asia-Pacific nations on a multi-national basis.

2. Positive Response to the Missile Defense System and the New Security Regime
The Bush administration is proposing a new security regime, which will be quite important in that the nature of bilateral alliance relations, the management of nuclear weapons, directions for regional security cooperation, etc. might well be altered in a fundamental way, and thus the proposal has significant implications for the peace and stability of the international community. As a nation allied with the U.S., Japan should, therefore, make its commitment in supporting the U.S. proposal, while pursuing its own national security interest and its alliance relationship with the U.S. by participating in the process of constructing the new global framework. Under the new regime, which might go beyond the current missile defense system, Japan would have to reconsider its national security arrangement. With this in mind, it is important for Japan to engage in strategic dialogue with the U.S. expressing its support for the Bush proposal, while examining the method of managing the missile defense system.

3. Constructive Approach to the Collective Security Issue
Although the Japan-U.S. alliance has been uni-lateral, with Japan relying on U.S. nuclear deterrent power in the past, Japan in return has made every effort in cooperating with the U.S. in political and economic terms, purchasing U.S.-made weapons, solving U.S. base issues, bearing HNS (Host Nation Support) costs for U.S. forces in Japan, pursuing defense cooperation between the two countries, etc., in order to compensate for the uni-lateral nature of the relationship. As a result of changing conditions in East Asia and the increasing importance of Japan's presence, however, voices saying that Japan must make further cooperation and contribution as an allied nation are becoming stronger. This amounts to the collective defense right issue for Japan. Looking into the future of Asia, Japan needs to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance for the sake of national security and thus to deal with the collective defense issue. On the other hand, this issue should be dealt with by an amendment of the Japanese constitution, rather than by its reinterpretation, but that might well develop into a difficult political problem and require lengthy and complicated procedures. Therefore, what needs to be done now is to construct a legal framework in which Japan's logistics support for the U.S. forces will be allowed in outside regions where such support is currently restricted as joint military actions. For this purpose, some Diet members should submit a "Basic National Security Bill," and push it through the Diet with necessary resolutions to make such logistics support possible. Of course, a close consulation with the U.S. regarding the content of such a bill is indispensable.
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