Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fukuda makes it explicit

Following my discussion of the US-Japan alliance in this post and this post, Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo, a few days before his summit with President Bush in Washington, has told the Washington Post that "his government's reach in global security affairs would not be as expansive as the Bush administration wants."

In other words, Mr. Fukuda is making it explicitly clear that Japan is not prepared to share Washington's global security policy. Instead, "I believe the heaviest responsibility for Japan is to see to it that there is stability and prosperity in Asia."

So it seems that Mr. Ozawa and the DPJ are not alone in being discontent with the US-Japan relationship, even as Mr. Fukuda reassures Washington that the alliance remains essential to Japan's foreign policy. (Indeed, this week the allies will break out that favorite word from the 1990s — "affirm" — to demonstrate the importance of the alliance.)

I hope — but doubt — that Washington will view Japanese discontent as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship, not as either grounds for panic or grounds for ignoring Japan and focusing on China (as some seem tempted to do).

2 comments:

Jun Okumura said...

The other day, I went to hear a very competent Japan hand give a talk. During the Q&A, I asked what the alliance would have going for it if a) the North Korean nuclear threat were eliminated (a long-shot, but there’s something going on out there, so it’s now something you can’t dismiss outright in your mid-, long-term projections) and b) we (the Japanese) decided that defending Taiwan’s autonomy was no longer part of our national security concerns. The answer was something about having common values and interests to promote globally.

But if you look at common interests elsewhere on the planet, you find that most of them are also shared by China and every net heavy importer of essential economic inputs who are committed to what we loosely call the globalization process. As for values, “many people” (which looks like a polite, Japanese way of saying “we”, though Prime Minister Fukuda would never be so impolite as to say it outright) have become wary of following the U.S. lead on that. We don’t want to go chasing willy-nilly after the U.S. to different ends of the earth for 4-8 years every time the U.S. administration changes. Not If we can help it.

I can’t read Mr. Fukuda’s mind, but my guess is that something close to that is going through his mind as he prepares for the trip.

Andrew Oplas said...

I share your hope that the United States will see this (and the Fukuda visit) as an opportunity to improve relations with Japan. Those relations are already very strong.

Fukuda's comments reflect his own opinion and no doubt the intuitive resistance of many Japanese with respect to their responsibilities to "follow" the United States.

I would comment (as an American) that any future expanded role in the world community for Japan, notably, a potential seat in the United Nations Security Council, rides heavily on U.S. support. In fact, the United States strongly supports a seat for Japan (though there are plenty of logistical hurdles).

When seen in this light (and how many Japanese politicians do not think Japan should have a seat?) the expanded role of Japan in global security as recently urged by the US Sec. of Defense may not be seen as a burden, but a necessity.

There is much more to be gained for Japan by "following" the United States than by rushing off on some wild, "independent" foreign policy (perhaps supported by the likes of Ozawa/ Fukuda) that would in reality, simply lead Japan to a much more insular, ad-hoc, regional role (South Korea?)in world politics.

The burden of the U.S. relationship for Japan in fact pays many benefits from the perspective of realpolitik, in adddition to its moral magnanimity.