Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ambassador Schieffer, stand down please

J. Thomas Schieffer, US ambassador to Japan, is continuing with his campaign to convince the DPJ to change its opposition to the extension of the anti-terror special measures law, giving interviews to major dailies on the spat between the US and the DPJ. (Mainichi interview here; Asahi interview here.)

The message is more or less the same in both of the interviews I read, but a quote in the Mainichi interview especially caught my eye. Ambassador Schieffer said, "If Japan makes this kind of statement of backing away from the war on terror, it will send a 'terrible message' not only to the United States but to the international community."

Now, I happen to think this is true. Japan's commitment in Afghanistan is to the UN-sanctioned coalition working to rebuild Afghanistan (and indirectly to the people of Afghanistan), not to the US. Go back and read the US-Japan mutual security treaty. There is no provision that provides for allied cooperation outside of the Far East, a term that has never been properly defined and is generally understood to apply to potential scenarios in the region and not to a foreordained geographic area. In any event, cooperation between the US and Japan in Afghanistan and Iraq are not explicitly included in the alliance, although naturally the alliance has a lot to do with why Japan is in both places.

However, if the international community is so concerned about Japan's pulling its refueling detachment out of the Indian Ocean, wouldn't that message be far more convincing coming from someone other than the ambassador of the US to Japan? Why not Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, secretary-general of NATO, twenty-five of whose member nations outside of the US have contributed to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan? Why not Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, whose organization has approved the multinational coalition's activities in Afghanistan with multiple resolutions? Why not the governments of other countries involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, or the government of Afghanistan itself? Does Ambassador Schieffer not realize that regardless of what he says, his persistent lobbying on the issue makes it into a US-Japan issue and decreases the chances that Ozawa and the DPJ will compromise, if only to avoid appearing as to have caved in to US pressure?

Thankfully the White House has announced that President Bush will not be stopping in Japan when he goes to Australia next month for the APEC summit, a visit that would have occurred around the anniversary of 9/11 and would undoubtedly have resulted in even more US pressure on the DPJ to change its position.

I want Japan to continue to participate in the multinational coalition supporting Afghanistan; I think it's the right thing to do, and I think Japan ought to be involved in a mission in which nearly every developed democracy is involved. But Japan's continuing involvement should not be the result of US browbeating or arm-twisting, because the alliance will not last much longer if it functions on the basis of the US government's leaning hard on Japan when it wants Tokyo to do something. The Japanese government — ideally with the support of the Japanese people — has to want to participate in international missions. To make Japan do otherwise — to put the government in the position of having to force enabling legislation through the Diet — is to sow the seeds of the alliance's destruction. (Of course, the Abe government, as Defense Minister Koike made clear last week, seems content with US gaiatsu on this issue, whatever the consequences for the alliance.)

So, Ambassador Schieffer, consider the consequences of your continuing to pressure the DPJ to change course — and cease and desist. It is in the interest of the US for Japan to play a more active global role as a great power among great powers, not as the submissive ally of the US doing Washington's bidding.


Bryce said...

Again, there is nothing much here I disagree with. I sometimes just do not understand how senior U.S. diplomats can't see that arguing their case to reluctant foreign friends and allies is almost always read as external pressure. This is not unique to Japan.

I'm not sure I agree with you on Afghanistan. Refueling ships in the Indian Ocean so that they can go off and attack targets in Afghanistan hardly lies within either the letter or the spirit of the Japanese constitution (yes, yes, I know most of them will be patrol ships, but there is no clear demarcation), so until the constitution changes they shouldn't be there.

The SDF as a reconstruction force is, however, a different story. First though, they have to actually have to figure out how to fix things on time and within budget.

Taro Tanaka said...

This confirms what we already know, Ambassador Schieffer is a poor diplomat. It was almost funny when he went out crying in media after the election results about not getting an appointment with OZAWA. I have never seen such disgrace and open invitation to U.S. bashing before. It is equally difficult to understand how he agreed to talk to OZAWA on record. It provided him with another great opportunity to show in public his newly gained power and determination to change the country. OZAWA is basically right about Afghanistan, though. It is indeed preliminary a U.S. war and other nations would not dream of asserting pressures to keep Japan there. Japan cannot pass a new law everytime U.S. needs help in international affairs. A comprehensive PKO law is needed and this could be a good time to start the discussion.