A rising China, North Korea's nuclear ambitions and the
setting of a new agenda for broader cooperation are
expected to test Japan-U.S. relations in the second term
of President George W Bush, according to U.S. experts.
"The reelection of Bush is good news for U.S.-Japan
relations because it really has been part of the most
effective alliance management in years," said Patrick
Cronin, senior vice president and director of studies at
the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"Some of those key players may be changing, but you've
already forged at the very highest level, the prime
minister (Junichiro Koizumi) and the president, a very
special relationship, and that remains as long as the
prime minister is there," he said.
Cronin said the No. 1 diplomatic and security policy
issue in Bush's second term is the war on terrorism
which is "inseparable from success in Iraq." Bush is
expected to seek continued involvement of Japan in the
"I'm sure Bush will not be letting Koizumi off the hook
because Japan's role is vital, has really been vital to
this solution as witnessed by the prime minister's
standing close by and having the donor's conference
recently and not giving in to terrorism, all of those
have been important," he said.
Japan has dispatched Self-Defense Forces troops to Iraq
for a reconstruction and humanitarian assistance
mission. Koizumi is expected to decide shortly to extend
the SDF deployment in Iraq beyond the Dec 14 deadline.
Cronin said a second set of diplomatic and security
issues in Bush's second term will go beyond the Middle
East and focus on Asia, including North Korea's nuclear
arms program and a rising China.
For Japan, the planned realignment of U.S. troops in
Japan will be the most immediate issue but there is "no
easy answer because it is so politically integrated into
the society," he said.
But Cronin said, "The U.S.-Japan relationship is so
good. I have no doubt that that will be a very serious
fruitful discussion between the United States and
Balbina Hwang, policy analyst on Northeast Asia at the
Heritage Foundation, also said Japan-U.S. relations in
the last four years have been a "resounding success."
But she said there is a need for the two countries to
establish a set of long-term objectives for their
alliance that take into consideration the security
environment after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks
and possible strategic shifts in Asia, such as the
collapse of North Korea.
"Although Japan's military and financial contributions
to the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are
significant and important, the two countries have not
developed a clear definition of their regional
alliance's role in extra-regional conflicts," Hwang
"Moreover, less immediate issues, such as how the
alliance should address China's rise as a regional
power, have been pushed to the background by more
immediate threats such as North Korea," she said.
Japan can begin to set long-term objectives by
revisiting its 1997 Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense
Cooperation and specifying security threats and
interests beyond the current loose application of the
"defense of Japan as well as areas surrounding Japan,"
"Japan's security commitments have already expanded
beyond the strict parameters of previous security
frameworks and should be rearticulated to reflect
current needs and threats, especially the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction, antiterrorist
activities, and peacekeeping and reconstruction
efforts," she said.
But such efforts by Japan to rethink bilateral security
cooperation will certainly face a controversial issue â€”
whether to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the
Constitution and lift the ban on the use of the right of
The Japanese government interprets that to mean that
under international law Japan has the right to
collective self-defense â€” which involves coming to the
military aid of allies under attack â€” but that the
Constitution forbids the exercise of that right.
While stressing no foreigner has any business telling
Japan what it should do on the constitutional revision
issue, Hwang said she hopes there will be a "vigorous
public debate" in Japan.
"When they do that, I think they will discover that the
artificial restriction that has been placed through this
very odd interpretation of Article 9, probably no longer
serves the Japanese people in their own self-defense,
given the very changed security environment," she said.
Kent Calder, director of the Reischauer Center for East
Asian Studies at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced
International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, said
the agenda for the Japan-U.S. alliance has been "far too
narrow" due mainly to the U.S. focus on Iraq.
"The United States should be contributing more actively
on the economy, environmental and the energy-policy
agendas," he said. "There should also be more priority
on cultural relations."
Calder said Japan needs to consider how to keep its
influence in Washington amid growing U.S. attention to
A "bypass" phenomenon is "growing more serious within
the U.S.-Japan-China triangle, despite the strong
Bush-Koizumi relationship at the top," Calder said.
"I think the most serious issue is how influential Japan
will be in Washington relative to China, especially on
soft-security issues like energy," he said.
Calder said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's
departure from the Bush administration may adversely
affect Japan-U.S. relations. Armitage, known as a strong
supporter of the Japan-U.S. alliance, has offered his
resignation along with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"Bush and Koizumi will likely continue to be close but
much will depend on the ambassadors and the middle-range
officials," he said.
"Those networks could hardly be better than they are
now," he said. "It would be hard to replace a senior,
highly strategic official such as Armitage. Other Japan
specialists simply lack his seniority and consequent
Calder, meanwhile, said Japan does not necessarily need
to remove all its constraints on military activity.
"Japan has a comparative advantage in peaceful
interchange with other nations, especially in Asia,
whereas the United States has a comparative advantage in
the military sphere," he said.
"Some constraints help to preserve this basic division
of labor within the U.S.-Japan alliance, which has
proved functional for more than half a century," Calder
"They also have inhibited arms races within Asia,
including those with China," he said. "They have also
made it easier for Japanese to support the U.S. presence
in Japan financially, since Japan has not had extensive
military expenditures offshore, due to the constraints."
by Yoichi Kosukegawa.