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Home > Opinions Last Updated: 22:29 10/20/2009

[October 2009]

Japan's Foreign Policy and the Alliance: Transcending Change with Trust
Leif-Eric Easley (Harvard University), Tetsuo Kotani (Doshisha University), and Aki Mori (Doshisha University) (10/20 up) New
An unprecedented change in government has raised speculation about the direction of Japan's foreign policy. The Aug. 30, 2009 legislative elections allowed the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to take control of government for the first time from the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Japan's democracy is poised for change, but drastic revision of the Japan-U.S. alliance is not in Japan's national interest, is not what the Japanese people voted for, and would seriously distract the new government from other priorities......................................On the eve of the security treaty's 50th anniversary, both the Hatoyama and Obama governments need to demonstrate that the alliance is not merely a partnership between particular political parties. The alliance should transcend changes in government because it is based on shared interests, values and trust, making possible deeper cooperation on major global challenges.

U.S. Policy toward North Korea: The China Fallacy
Adam P. Liff (Ph.D. student in the Department of Politics at Princeton University) (10/17 up)
Images of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's warm embrace of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during this week's visit to Pyongyang to celebrate the 60th anniversary of PRC-DPRK diplomatic relations may have surprised observers of the North Korea nuclear issue. After all, the conventional wisdom in U.S. foreign policy circles is that the Chinese leadership is increasingly angry with Pyongyang in the wake of its recent provocations and that Beijing is willing and able to use its leverage to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program. .....................................Whether North Korea is prepared to willingly denuclearize is an open question. However, any chance of success is incumbent upon the U.S. reexamining its approach to the issue. While steadfast support from China - particularly on containment and counterproliferation - is essential, the idea that "the road to Pyongyang runs through Beijing" is fundamentally flawed.

[September 2009]

The Obama Administration's North Korea Policy
C. Kenneth Quinones (Professor, Akita International University, Japan) (9/28 up)
President Barak Obamaís foreign policy goals were determined by the reality he inherited from President George W. Bush. But Obamaís view of the world, his personal philosophy and preferences are defining his foreign policy priorities and strategies. The Obama Administrationís foreign policy will pursue essentially the same goals as the Bush Administration, but assign different priorities and use different strategies and tactics....................................The passage of time, however, benefits North Korea. The longer it has to refine its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, the greater the chances that it will successfully develop a nuclear armed ballistic missile capable of hitting first Japan and eventually the United States. Once it has this capability, the price of dismantling these programs will have soared to unprecedented heights.

Don't forget Asia
Brad Glosserman (Executive director of the Pacific Forum CSIS) (9/21 up)
The United States has scaled back plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. While that decision reflects a new assessment of the Iranian threat to Europe, most attention is being paid to its impact on relations with Russia. But the decision has equally important implications for Asia. It underscores two critical facts: first, the notion of discrete "theaters" is a fiction; second, the U.S. has to closely engage its Asian allies as it develops its strategic doctrine....................................Missile defense will continue to be a contentious issue. Its expense and its reliability will make it a lightning rod for criticism and a target for budget cutters; it has already been criticized by defense specialists in the new government in Tokyo. Potential adversaries will complain about any program that can block their weapons. Active engagement won't eliminate all those problems, but it will ensure that our discussions focus on critical issues, rather than irritants that have been allowed to fester.

[August 2009]

New Politics in Japan and Its Global Security Roles
Yoichiro Sato (Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies) (8/27 up)
Prime Minister Aso Taro, whose public support has plummeted below 20 percent, has announced dissolution of the Lower House of the Diet. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has been gaining ground and could win majority control of the Lower House in the election that will be held at the end of the month. The prospect of regime change in Tokyo has triggered discussions about its implications for U.S.-Japan relations and Japan's global security roles. ...................................The mood in favor of a DPJ-led "change" has some observers of Japan concluding that major change in Japan's security policy is forthcoming. Optimists foresee expansion of civilian-based activism in coordination with U.S.-led global peace-building efforts. Pessimists foresee termination of Japanese military contributions to such U.S. efforts. Both expectations are likely to be unfulfilled. Japan under the DPJ will likely follow the pragmatism of the LDP, which paid attention to alliance management through symbolic, minimalist, and risk-averse contributions to global peace-building efforts.

A Korean Perspective on the Future of R.O.K.-U.S. Relations
Jaeho Hwang (Research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses) (8/21 up)
The regional security dynamic surrounding the Korean Peninsula is in flux. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton trekked to Pyongyang to free the two captive journalists, creating for the first time since the North's May nuclear test an atmosphere conducive to dialogue. But Seoul has security concerns surpassing those of North Korea, including all of Northeast Asia and greater Asia, both in the short- and long-term. Here, I will lay out the future of the ROK-U.S. alliance amidst turbulent change in the security environment. ...................................If the U.S. really wants to strengthen the ROK-U.S. alliance, the U.S. should recognize local sentiment and provide psychological and physical support to allay fears among states regarding a change in the framework. In addition, while the U.S. views the Korean Peninsula as part of a larger picture, the ROK sees a tangible threat. Therefore, efforts to close the gap in perceptions between the U.S. and ROK are required. Finally, cooperation at the Track 1.5 level is needed to frame a more long-term picture.

The Other (Equally Important) Dimension of U.S.-India Relations
David J. Karl (Director of studies at the Pacific Council on International Policy) (8/12 up)
Much of the media coverage of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's whirlwind five-day tour of Mumbai and New Delhi last month focused on high politics. The rebuff over climate policy issued by India's environment minister has been well publicized, though his words seemed directed as much to the domestic audience as to Mrs. Clinton...................................And much will depend upon how much energy and imagination both governments pour into the new strategic dialogue, including in the areas of "low politics" that provide significant ballast to the entire relationship. But the trip did accentuate the often-ignored factors that create an important stake in enduring ties, and which limit the risk that momentary political and diplomatic aggravations could disrupt the overall U.S.-India partnership.

[July 2009]

A Northeast Asian Solution for Af-Pak
Joseph Ferguson (Consultant for LMI) and Drew Thompson (Starr Senior Fellow and Director of China Studies at The Nixon Center) (7/14 up)
The political and social stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan - though far from hopeless - is nevertheless quite tenuous. Troops from the United States, NATO, and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) partner nations continue to battle terrorist and extreme Taliban elements across Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Pakistani Army is battling the same groups on its own territory and is dealing with a refugee situation bordering on dire. .................................. Additionally, Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo could help shed assertions that they are free riders in an international system dominated by the United States. Deepening engagement between these nations and the United States, as well as amongst themselves, creates new opportunities to expand cooperation and partnership efforts in their own region.

The F-22 and the Japan-U.S. alliance
Weston Konishi Adjunct Fellow at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation in Washington, DC and Robert Dujarric heads the Institute of Contemporary Japanese Studies at Temple University, Japan Campus. (7/7 up)
North Korea's return to saber-rattling has returned military affairs to the top of the Japan-U.S. agenda. As many Japanese continue to have - unfounded - doubts about the commitment of the Obama administration to the bilateral alliance, they are pushing for Washington to allow Japan to purchase America's most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-22 Raptor. This trend must be quickly deflated before it becomes a misguided litmus test for bilateral relations..................................The time may well come when Japan meets these basic requirements and Washington - in consideration of broader strategic calculations - is prepared to sell F-22s to Japan and other allies. Tokyo will then have a stronger case to make for acquiring the aircraft. That day is not yet here. In the meantime, the Raptor must not become a symbol of America's strategic commitment to Japan.

[June 2009]

The BRICs' Monetary Challenge
Brendan Kelly (Country Director for China Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2007-2009)  (6/27 up)
On June 16, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China met in Yekaterinburg, Russia for the first formal BRIC summit. The issue topping the meeting agenda was reform of the international financial and monetary system. The BRICs offered a counterpoint and challenge to the G7/G8, which has served as the world's economic "steering committee" for the past few decades and meets next month in Italy.................................Indeed, if China's leaders are serious about increasing the renminbi's role as a reserve currency, this goal, with the many positive reforms required to achieve it - rather than undermining U.S. economic interests - might actually reinforce the Chinese government's inclination to follow through on the domestic economic and financial reforms that U.S. economists and policymakers believe are essential for sustainable U.S. and global economic growth in the future.

The Guillotine: Demographics and Japan's Security Options
Brad Glosserman (Executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS) and Tomoko Tsunoda (Vasey Fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS) (6/20 up)
The next few months will be critical for Japan's defense and security policies. The National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) that outline the framework for national security policy are due by year's end. This in turn provides the foundation for the Mid-Term Defense Program, which translates that outline into specific programs and purchases................................An enduring U.S. commitment to Japan's defense even in the face of these trends will demonstrate the sort of leadership that will enhance U.S. standing. An enduring alliance between our two nations that rests on a shared sense of purpose and eschews a crude assessment of costs and benefits sets an example for all nations.

Korea: It's Not the Bomb; It's the Funeral
Spencer H. Kim (Member of the U.S.-Korea Business Council and a founder of the Pacific Century Institute) (6/5 up)
The latest North Korean nuclear test and missing launch continues to get headlines, but it is only another chapter in an already ongoing saga. For the United States, more important things happened on the Korean peninsula this week. The death and burial of former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun are of deep concern. It is important to America that the aftermath goes well. ...............................Let us hope Lee Myung Bak's government treats Roh's legacy with true "conservative" values - careful, sober, respectful - and does not react in a way that reminds the public of past authoritarianism. If it mishandles Roh's legacy, then its close public identification with the U.S. will play badly for the alliance and undermine much of the broadening of support for the alliance that Roh had accomplished.

[May 2009]

Burma: Time for a New Approach
Ralph A. Cossa (President of the Pacific Forum CSIS) (5/19 up)
Burma and Aung Sang Suu Kyi are once again in the headlines, for all the wrong reasons. We may never really know why some foolish American, identified as John Yettaw from Missouri, put himself and Daw Suu Kyi in jeopardy by intruding uninvited into the compound where she has been kept under house arrest for years. It already seems clear that the ruling junta will use this incident to justify keeping her under house arrest or worse...............................But the time has come for the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi to become more flexible and try to beat the junta at its own game, not by trying to get it to change its rules (since it won't) but by joining together with ASEAN, Washington, and others to make sure that this time they live up to their own rules. If that happens, the roadmap toward democracy might actually (finally) begin to live up to its own name.

Finding Commonality
Laurence Brahm (Global activist, international mediator, political columnist and author) (5/7 up)
On April 1, Chinese President Hu Jintao invited President Barack Obama to visit China later this year. It is unprecedented for a U.S. president to visit China so early in a new term; the trip symbolizes the beginning of a new epoch in U.S.-China relations...............................The issues are too complicated and the economies of both countries too intertwined. The potential downside political ramifications are too acute. Both sides cannot miss the opportunity for extensive and in-depth understanding of issues of mutual concern and achieving meaningful progress. It is time to establish a proper framework for dialogue. The U.S., China, and the world have a key stake in finding commonalities.

[April 2009]

Global Nuclear Disarmament: Too Much, Too Soon?
Ralph A. Cossa (President of the Pacific Forum CSIS) (4/29 up)
There is no country on earth more committed to global nuclear disarmament than Japan. Ever since experiencing first hand the horrors of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese government and people have been steadfast in calling for the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the planet..............................Washington will also need to keep the Japanese (and other concerned allies, especially South Korea) fully informed of the deliberations and its own intentions to ensure that others are not tempted to join the nuclear club out of fear that their own security interests are not otherwise being protected. Close consultation during the preparation phase of the 2009 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review would be a good place to begin.

North Korea's Missile Test and the Road Ahead
James J. Przystup (Senior research fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University) (4/22 up)
With Pyongyang declaring an to end its participation in the Six-Party Talks and threatening to restart its nuclear reactor and strengthen its nuclear deterrent following the adoption by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) of a nonbinding presidential statement condemning North Korea's April 5 missile test, the fate of the on-going effort to denuclearize North Korea is a matter of immediate policy debate.............................Does this mean living with a nuclear North Korea? The answer is "yes." But living with it is not the same as accepting it. The goal of our diplomacy remains denuclearization; this will take time, while our security strategy must deal with the world as it is. Our commitment to extended deterrence is critical in supporting both our diplomacy, security strategy, and our allies.

East Asia, the G20 and Global Economic Governance
Hadi Soesastro (Research staff at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Indonesia) (4/1 up)
East Asian members of the G20 must participate strategically in this emerging global forum. They need to make sure that the G20 can produce policies and actions that will help bring the global economy out of the current crisis as soon as possible. Existing international institutions have been helpless in dealing with the issues the world confronts and are in dire need of major reforms. There is now no better forum than G20............................In the Chinese language, the word "crisis" includes the characters for "danger" and "opportunity." Opportunities provided by the crisis need to be fully exploited by East Asia to help avert the dangers that continue to loom large, for the region and for the world, while a strong framework for collective action is fashioned through the G20.

[March 2009]

It's Not Just the Economy, Stupid: Asia's Strategic Dangers from the Financial Crisis
Michael J. Green (Senior Advisor and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)) and Steven P. Schrage (CSIS Scholl Chair in International Business) (3/26 up)
Facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, analysts at the World Bank and the CIA are just beginning to contemplate the ramifications for international stability if there is not a recovery in the next year. For the most part, the focus has been on fragile states such as some in Eastern Europe. However, the Great Depression taught us that a downward global economic spiral can even have jarring impacts on great powers........................... We know that it is important to provide economic assistance to fragile states like Pakistan and through the World Bank and IMF even amidst our own financial crises. We know that it would be foolhardy to slash defense spending or to replace deterrence and strong alliances with weak diplomatic arrangements as we did in the 1920s and 1930s. And we know that we need a global strategy for revitalizing economic growth and recognizing its interconnections to security rather than seeking relative gains through unilateral approaches.

A New Era in U.S.-Indonesia Relations
Ann Marie Murphy (Assistant professor at the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy & International Relations, Seton Hall University) (3/21 up)
Hillary Clinton deserves credit for making Indonesia the second country she visited as secretary of State. Indonesia may be the world's fourth most populous country, third largest democracy, and home to the world's largest community of Muslims, but it is also the most important country Americans know virtually nothing about. Clinton's visit sends an early signal to Jakarta that Washington recognizes Indonesia's growing international clout and builds a firm foundation for future cooperation..........................What makes Indonesia a unique international actor is its membership in a number of important global communities: it resides physically in Asia but is part of the broader Muslim world, the developing world, and the community of democracies. Its ability to navigate between these important constituencies in the service of international peace and prosperity makes Indonesia a potentially valuable international player. American attention to Indonesia is long overdue.

Continuity and Change: U.S. Asia Policy
Ralph A. Cossa (President of the Pacific Forum CSIS) (3/7 up)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent trip to Asia underscored elements of continuity and change in the Obama administration's Asia policy. Generally speaking, her visits in Northeast Asia - to Japan, Korea, and China - represented continuity; her trip to Indonesia signaled change........................The enthusiastic reception she received at every stop also indicates that American "soft power" may indeed be making a comeback with the advent of the new administration.

Whaling Need not be Made into Giant Whale of an Issue
Masahiko ISHIZUKA (Councilor, Foreign Press Center Japan, and Lecturer, Waseda University) (3/1 up)
The practice of whaling is essentially a forgotten issue for the Japanese. In no sense is the whale an indispensable thing in their everyday lives. However, it takes a forefront position in their minds when Japan comes under attack from Western nations for killing this animal. Given the apparent insignificance of whaling in practical terms, their largely emotional reaction to the criticism appears disproportionately sharp and stubborn.......................The chairman of the IWC recently proposed a compromise plan to allow Japan to catch minke whales in its coastal waters, which has been banned for two decades, in exchange for phased reduction of whaling in open seas, eventually to zero in five years. It is high time that Japan considered accepting this idea for the time being.

[February 2009]

This weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins her first overseas tour when she travels to China, Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia. To the relief of the Japanese government, she will first touch down in Tokyo, where she is expected to reaffirm the U.S.-Japan alliance as the bedrock of U.S. policy and strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. ......................Regardless of whether the LDP stays in power, or whether the DPJ forms the next cabinet, a re-energized role in Central Asia - helping to fight the war on terror in Afghanistan - fits in well with the vision of policymakers in both parties for an invigorated Japanese diplomatic strategy in the 21st century.

Reassuring Allies: Secretary Clinton's Most Important Mission
Ralph A. Cossa (President, Pacific Forum CSIS) and Brad Glosserman (Executive Director, Pacific Forum CSIS) (2/9 up)
We welcome the news that Hillary Clinton's first overseas trip as Secretary of State will be to Japan, Korea, and China (appropriately in that order). While her visit to Beijing will likely garner the lion's share of attention, her visits to Tokyo and Seoul are equally if not more important......................Despite the anxieties mentioned above, there has still been a groundswell of optimism surrounding the election of Barack Obama and the symbolism of Secretary Clinton choosing Asia as her first overseas destination can build upon this if she recognizes and addresses regional anxieties and provides the reassurance both allies need to revitalize these important security relationships.

Does the Nonproliferation Tail Wag the Deterrence Dog?
James L. Schoff (Associate Director, Asia-Pacific studies, Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis in Cambridge, Massachusetts) (2/6 up)
In recent months there have been several U.S. government and private task force reports regarding future U.S. nuclear weapons policies and strategic force posture, all intended to inform the Obama administrationís Nuclear Posture Review, which is expected at the end of this year.....................The current dialogue on roles, missions, and capabilities, for example, should become a higher priority, and we should utilize scenario-based planning more extensively. As we look to bolster nonproliferation efforts, let us use this as an opportunity to reshape extended deterrence for the 21st century in ways that strengthen and diversify our security and political relationships, which can reassure our allies as we seek a lower nuclear profile.

[January 2009]

Priorities for the Obama Administration
Barry Desker (Dean, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University) (1/28 up)
Now that he is president of the United States, Barack Obama has his work cut out for him. His priorities will revolve around reclaiming U.S. global leadership and rebuilding alliances in the face of America's new position as an over-extended hegemon....................Instead, the U.S. needs to look at its own practices: high rates of consumption, a stock market and housing bubble that has now burst, and easy credit policies. The challenge will be to avoid a trade war. President Obama has to persuade Congress that global cooperation is needed to meet the most dire economic environment facing the U.S. and the global economy since the end of World War II.

Quick to Rebuke U.S., Rest of World had Part in Crisis too
Masahiko ISHIZUKA (Councilor, Foreign Press Center Japan, and Lecturer, Waseda University) (1/26 up)
One scene I witnessed in a village in southern China years ago remains vivid in my memory. At a farm fair, a merchant was putting feed in a tube of rolled paper and blowing it to cram the feed into the throat of a duck. The forced feeding was meant to fatten up the bird quickly for use as Pekin duck, prized by gourmets. The collapse of the American economic bubble reminded me of what had happened to that duck...................Thomas Schieffer, the U.S. ambassador to Japan over the past four years, said in his recent parting press conference in Tokyo that "Japan needs to shape the new world order" emerging from the current crisis, not just react to it. He said that Japan's first response to the Obama administration - which came into being on Obama's mantra of "Yes, we can" - must not be "We can't." Japanese should feel ashamed that they have to be given such a lecture.

Specter of Deeper Job Cuts Keeping Public on Edge
Masahiko ISHIZUKA (Councilor, Foreign Press Center Japan, and Lecturer, Waseda University) (1/6 up)
Job cuts - and the prospect of more of them coming - have suddenly emerged as one of the most pressing concerns in Japan. While the worst of the unfolding economic crisis appears yet to come, the startling speed of deterioration is its signature characteristic. Nowhere is this more keenly felt than in the job market, leading to considerable societal unease..................In the short run, the government must rush emergency measures to soften the impact of rising job losses. But it is also a time to contemplate long-term strategies to promote domestic demand in earnest, an issue that has long been left unanswered.

What Hu Jintao Should Expect: Predictions about Obama Administration Policy toward Taiwan
Bonnie S. Glaser (Resident senior associate, CSIS, and Senior associate, Pacific Forum) (1/6 up)
Taiwan remains one of the most sensitive and divisive issues between the United States and China. What should Chinese President Hu Jintao expect from President Obama on this critically important issue? Until the new president is sworn in and key personnel are confirmed, the new administration's policy will remain uncertain.................As the 2012 Taiwan presidential elections approach, Beijing should not anticipate any efforts by the United States to influence the outcome. U.S. involvement in Taiwan's 2008 elections to discourage the passage of referenda that could have resulted in cross-Strait military conflict should be seen as exceptional. Bluntly stated, the U.S. will not work with Beijing to keep the KMT in power. That decision will be left to the Taiwanese people.

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