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January 24, 2005

An Emerging Security Triangle? A Japanese View

Takashi INOGUCHI (Professor, University of Tokyo)

1. Introduction

Three primordial structural features that underline regional security politics need to be briefly touched on before I examine an emerging security triangle in broader East Asia (Blackwill & Dibb, 2000; Inoguchi, 2002). By broader East Asia I mean Northeast, Southeast, Oceania and the South Pacific. By the three primordial structural features I mean United States predominance, deepening global integration, and resilient "transnational" forces (Inoguchi, 1997). Asking a rhetorical question, Could you please tell me the most powerful air force and the second most powerful air force in the world? can highlight the first feature. The most powerful is obviously the United States air force. The second is neither the Russian air force, nor the Chinese air force, nor any other country's air force. It is the United States navy. More in an intermediate term projection, one might as well take a glance at weapons research and development expenditure. The United States expenditure in research and development of weapons has exceeded eighty-five percent of its world total. Projected into the future military array of the United States, the figure makes it nearly certain that the United States will keep its predominance for the next 20-30 years given the lead time necessary to materialize weapons research & development expenditure.

Global integration deepens year by year. When Richard O'Brien published his book, Global Financial Integration; The End of Geography, in 1992 (O'Brien, 1992), he meant the tyranny of distance vanished at least in global finance. In other words, global financial integration spearheaded the end of geography and made a leap forward at the time of the Plaza accord of 1985. In 2004 when the Madrid agreement was reached with respect to the pledges of major powers and international institutions to help Iraq to reconstruct itself, Anne-Marie Slaughter published a book in which she argues that global governance has been already practiced (Slaughter, 2004). By global governance she means something that is akin to the functioning mechanism of handling major issues on a global scale, using heavily the transnational consultations and coordination of professional units of many governments.

By resilient "transnational" forces I mean those forces that are encouraged to assert themselves through transnational diffusion and networks when the national integrative forces wax in tandem with globalizing trends. Those forces were played down by national centripetal forces roughly in the 19th and 20th centuries. They include all the sub national, transnational and supranational actors, groups and institutions with distinct messages. Robert Cooper (2004) calls pre-modem forces. But they were merely played down in much of the 19th and 20th centuries by the strong forces of nationalism and nation-state formation during that period. Those forces were strong in pre-nationalist period of human history and they have regained their strength somewhat when globalizing trends gather force by disaggregating the national policy and economy and linking there disaggregated forces across national borders.

These three structural forces are strong and ubiquitous. They are not confined to broader East Asia. I want to stress these structural features do matter when regional security politics is to be examined in the broader East Asian context.

2. The emerging security triangle? Canberra, Tokyo and Washington

There are two periods in the recent past when Canberra, Tokyo and Washington formed a virtual alliance or a very weak form of de facto policy alignment. The fast period was the period of regional economic integration in the late 1960s into the 1970s. It was the period when Japan and Australia gave an enormously big profile in the region in terms of per capita GNP and trade volume. United States Ambassador to Japan, Edwin Reischauer, was fond of using a world map in which the size of a country is proportional to its per capita gross national product. In the Asia-Pacific region, the United States, Japan and Australia looked really enormous. Those countries sandwiched there between were not much of a player at least economically. It was a virtual alliance between Tokyo and Canberra toward forging a trade-focused regional framework. As long as for Tokyo and Canberra security issues were shouldered more or less by the United States in the region, what was regarded as a real necessity was to make its vast space a region of something. Given the strident tide of the Japanese economy in the 1960s it was quite natural for the enlightened leaders in Tokyo and Canberra like Okita and Crawford to come up with such a vision and action plan. The vision was also natural when the region did not look tidy at least seen from Tokyo and Canberra. The Vietnam War was going on for the decade 1965-1975. China was in turmoil from the Cultural Revolution through the Gang of Four rule.

In the security realm, there was not much Tokyo and Canberra could do to augment the needs of the United States except that both gave strong commitment and facilities indispensable to the United States in the region. Only the United States had an alliance with each of them, not between Tokyo and Canberra. But in economics both envisaged a bright future of the region, focusing on the first elementary stage of regional integration Bella Balassa theorized. The fast stage is that of free trade on as regional scale. Non-governmental regional organizations were a driving liberalizing force. This was also natural since the inter-governmental organization called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was meant to be the universal global organization to monitor international trade and promote free trade. The Kennedy Round of GATT focused almost on the Atlantic wade regime. It is an irony that inter-governmental trade liberalizing push m a regional scale came only in the 2000s, a few decades later.

The second period of a virtual alliance between Tokyo and Canberra is the current one of the 2000s. In a good contrast to the first period, it does not focus on trade and economic regimes. It rather eyes regional security. Saying it is not meant to say that trade and economic dimensions have been played down. But trade and economic dimensions are being played on a space somewhat separately from security dimensions this time. Last time, all the trade and economic discussions did not touch on security dimensions largely because the economic development of those regional countries were believed as most important to regional security enhancement a la W.W. Rostow (1956). Free trade was deemed to be a sine qua non for economic development according to the neoclassical persuasion of economics. Besides the GATT was a universal liberalizing agent of world free trade. Any talk on regional free trade agreements would have been a heresy to the then economic orthodox. Bilateral or regional free trade regimes would rather distort universal Gee trade principle and structure and therefore benefits accruing from universal free trade. This time, given the difficulties associated to the World Trade Organization, bilateral and regional free trade agreements are a vogue in the region. Yearning for the ever-liberalizing trade and market opportunities, global capital flowing in a massive amount tenaciously and aggressively seeks the eradication of barriers to its freedom. As one of the few regions of the world, which have been a latecomer, sort of, in the game of free trade regime, bilateral or region-wide, broader East Asia has been of late almost frantic in making best use of bilateral and regional free trade agreements. China's vigorous economic development for the last 25 years has been driving China to its ever-expanding market opportunities. And so do China's economic partners in the region and beyond. It is as if the China market visibly lures China's partners, nearby and from afar alike. A huge amount of foreign direct investment has been accumulated in China. The China factor has been important in terms of China's high economic growth performance and its ramifications to its economic neighbors and partners.

All the above notwithstanding, this time, a virtual alliance between Tokyo and Canberra, if it is to be called as such, focuses on security. It has four major components:

(1) Both are increasingly clearly defined as an emerging major spoke in the United States-led hub and spokes relationship in the transformation of its armed forces. The United States is reassembling some of then forces in Japan's vicinities to Japan and the United States mainland in the increasingly vulnerable and possibly weakening era of the United States while Japan-headquartered forces find their responsibilities covering the entire Pacific and Indian Oceans. Australia is constructing a large United States military spoke at northern Australia, a policy Australia avoided in the past except for the space intelligence-gathering satellites base in central Australia.

(2) Both increasingly strongly find part of their mission peace support operations in those conflict-torn societies of their choice. Japan started to get itself involved in peace keeping operations under United Nations auspices since it first sent its troops in Cambodia in 1991. From then on Japan has been sending such missions in such places as in Angola, Rwanda, Bosnia, Palestine, and East Timor. Its size of troops tends to be small. It's sending troops in Iraq in 2004 registers a major breakthrough in that hoops were sent to places where pacification is incomplete. Constitutionally sending troops to areas where hostilities still exist was regarded as widely incorrect until very recently. Australia has been sending its troops in peacekeeping operations in its vicinities in the south Pacific. Its peace support and police missions have been in ascendance in its vicinities in the recent past (White, 2004, 7/7).

(3) Both visibly join forces in such regional components of the proliferation and maritime security initiatives. The United States-led call for anti-terrorist campaigns include the initiatives to apply those Homeland Security-kind measures taken in the United States to all the regions like broader East Asia. Such initiatives need local actor's steadfast participation in compliance with the initiative's action guidelines. Being interested in non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and in maritime safety from piracy and illicit trade, Japan and Australia are two of the strong participants in the initiatives in the region.

(4) Both find their governments led by strongly pro-United States leaders, Koizumi and Howard. Koizumi and Bush have built strong friendship (Inoguchi, 2004). Immediately after the United States declared victory in the Iraq War, Koizumi met Bush at Crawford, Texas. He uttered "High Noon", which was reciprocated by Bush's wholehearted-welcome hugging. The special relationship between the two countries has become an almost normal feature of late. Japan has recently reached accord with two of the axis of evils countries, North Korea and Iran, without receiving much noise let alone facing opposition from the United States. Koizumi visited Noah Korea twice since 2002, thus succeeded to bringing back abductees and their families despite the steadfast commitment on North Korea calling for the complete, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament. Japan concluded agreement on petroleum exploitation in southern Iran this spring 2004. Initial mutually somewhat contradictory tones of United States government responses to the accord were immediately replaced by the unified modified positive response soon afterward. Two reasons were cited. Japan vigorously opposed Iran's nuclear weapons development possibilities in Vienna. Japan has sent its Self Defense Forces hoops in southwestern Iraq.

Howard's ideology and policy tenets are conservative. His anti-multiculturalism is not a soft one. Howard has been a forerunner in defining Australia as deputy shelf in Bush-led global anti-terrorist wars. The failure of an extreme racialist party movement has coincided with the partial accommodation of such a policy tenet within the conservative governing coalition. His anti-terrorism is based on his shock and anger at terrorism at Bali where many Australians were killed and at New York where he was traveling on September 11, 2001. He was a harsh critic to Labor's policy about integrating Australia with East and Southeast Asia (Mainichi shimbun, 2004, 7/13). He sensed Australia's isolation very strongly, which in return propelled him to lean to one side, the United States. The most recent manifestation of this policy tenet is the abolition of teaching such Asian languages as Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean in school. He also stresses the need to build up defense. He is keen to invite the United States to build a big military base at Darwin. He has completed railway construction linking the northern territories with the center of national gravity in the southeast of Australia to prepare Australia with an emergency of troubles coming from Asia. He has been busy with sending peacekeeping troops in the south Pacific. He has been so strong-willed in so doing that one of the most important neighbors, Papua New Guinea, has been linking itself far more strongly with East and Southeast Asia than before (Shioda, 2004, pp.45-46; BBC News, 2004, 7/7).

3. How should one make sense of the triangle?

The emerging triangle has multifaceted features (Jain & Bruni, forthcoming). They are placed more directly in the three structural contexts. First, American dominance is a key feature which makes the triangle salient. Already in the 1990s did Japan and Australia start to play the supporting role as the anchor in the Pacific (Inoguchi, 2002). They both keep their alliance consolidated in the 1980s and 1990s when other countries did not place themselves in a position to help sustain the United States-led world system. New Zealand opted out of the alliance with the United States in the 1980s. South Korea focused the alliance on the local theater only. Only Japan and Australia were able to enhance the scope and mission of the alliance basically in harmony with the United States.

Second, deepening global integration has led the regional countries get closer each other in East and Southeast Asia, a region which was not known for its strong institutional ties and regional identities. The strident momentum for China's development has made Japan and Australia feel isolated somewhat in the region. Japan has been historically ambivalent about its regional identity. Friendly and stable relationship with China, a geographically dominant presence, can be maintained only when it keeps some distance from Continental power politics. China's accession to the World Trade Organization and free trade accord with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have made Japan mildly apprehensive about the prospect of Chinese dominance in the region. Australia's regional credentials are not very high either. The legacy of its past policy and its recent manifestation has made Australia look different from a member of Asia despite all its economic, financial and energy related thick ties with Asia. Neither Japan nor Australia is an odd man out. But their own regional identity remains to be enhanced if they proceed to embed themselves much more closely with Asia. As a matter of fact, Japan has been sort of striking back by accelerated free trade ties with Asia and beyond. Australia has been suggesting that the ASEAN PLUS THREE (Japan, Korea and China) had better be enlarged to the ASEAN PLUS FOUR (they mean plus one more, Australia).

Third, those, sub national, transnational and supranational forces, which had not been of primordial importance in most Cold War years of the last century. But the end of the Cold War has encouraged them to assert themselves. Globalization of some kinds has somewhat reduced the state's authority over citizens who used to be more acquiesced with the state authority. Democratization has enhanced people's voices especially those minority voices. And the September Eleventh has made Islamic, American and other radicalism to go more extreme and more globally diffused. To cope with them has become a duty beyond borders. How to contain and coopt those forces has become a mission of the coalition of the willing. Take the example of the Maritime Security Initiative. Japan and Australia are two of the few countries in the region that go with the United States by pledging that they get their sailors undertake the operations of anti-piracy, anti-drug trafficking, anti-weapons transfers etc.

All these give a semblance of Japan and Australia allied together. Their positions assigned in the Pax Americana seem to reshape them as the far enhanced two anchors of the Pacific, more directly embedded in the globally reconfigured military power of the United States. Their mission is far more closely enmeshed with that of the United States, with their inter-operability being elevated even higher. Their scope is global, literally covering both the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Underlying the whole reconfiguration of the Pax Americana is the change in the nature of war and of weapons technology. Both strategic nuclear wars and conventional wars among major states have seemingly become things of the past at least in terms of occurrence probabilities. What is increasingly annoying and difficult to deal with is the state of affairs associated with the trio of a failed state, a bankrupt economy and an anarchic society in the relentless tide of globalization or permeation of global forces and the emergence of the vast array of helpless societies riddled by extreme poverty, governed by sheer naked brutal force, and filled with despair and call for fundamental solutions. In other words, the Pax Americana riding high on the tide of globalization finds itself increasingly vulnerable to new threats. Whether it is imperial a la Nial Ferguson (2004) or liberal a la John Ikenberry (2002), the Pax Americana must deal with it. Japan and Australia are increasingly becoming part of it. As a matter of fact, the recongurated Pax Americana has been increasingly bringing every and each corner of the world not just Japan and Australia, under the scope of their version of global governance, as Ann-Marie Slaughter eloquently argues. Thus seen, the virtual alliance between Japan and Australia is slightly more than part of the whole story of the recongurated Pax Americana.


BBC News (2004) "Australia Signs PNG Police Deal," July 4.

Blackwill, Robert and Paul Dibb, eds. (2002) America's Asian Alliances, Cambridge: MIT Press.

Cooper, Robert (2004) The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty-First Century, London: Publishing Group West.

Dupont, Alan (2002) East Asia Imperiled, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ferguson, Nial (2004) Empire The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, London Perleus Books Group.

Ikenberry, G.John (2002) After Victory, Princeton; Princeton University Press.

Inoguchi, Takashi (1999) 'Peering Into the Future by Looking Back: The Westphalian Philadelphian and Anti-Utopian Paradigms, " International Studies Review, Vol. 1, No.2, pp.173-191. Inoguchi, Takashi (2002) "A Northeast Asian Perspective, "Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 55, No.2 (July), pp.199 - 212.

Inoguchi, Takashi (2004) "America and Japan: When the Political Gets Personal, ", June 17, 2004.

Jain Pumendra, and John Bruni (forthcoming) "Japan, Australia and the US - Little NATO or Shadow Alliance," International Relations of the Asia Pacific

Mainichi shimbun (2004) "Goshu-Taiheiyo no Kizuna (Australia-bondage with the Pacific), " July 13.

O'Brien, Richard (1992) Global Financial Intergration: the End of Geography, London: Pinter Publishers.

Rostow, Walt W. (1960) The Stages of Economic Growth, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Shioda, Mitsuyoshi (2004) "Kitae-Australia no Oceania Seisaku tenka to New notaichu sekkin." (To the North: Australia's Policy Change in the Oceania and Papua New Guinea's Consolidating Ties with China), World Trends, No.166 (July), pp.45-46

Slaughter, Anna-Marie (2004) A New World order, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Tow, William and Russel Trood (2004) Power Shift: Challenges for Australia in Northeast Asia, Canberra: Australian Strategic Policy Institute, June.

White, Hugh (2004) "Chiiki Kanyo, taibeyori Sushi"(Regional Engagement Given Higher Priority than Anti Terrorism), Asahi Shinbun, July 7.

(First appeared in "Economy, Culture & History JAPAN SPOTLIGHT bimonthly November/December 2004" and "-ditto- January/February 2005", issued by Japan Economic Foundation)

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