- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

Brad Glosserman, research director at Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu, spoke to Washington Times reporter Takehiko Kambayashi about Japan’s change of attitude on security issues. Pacific Forum CSIS is the Asia-Pacific arm of the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Question: You have said that Japan’s changes [toward national defense] in recent years, overshadowed by China’s dynamism and North Korea’s nuclear programs, are significant.

Answer: Yes, they are very significant. These are very important changes, but they have been largely overlooked.

Q: What role do you expect Japan to play from now on?

A: First of all, in many ways that depends on what Japanese people will decide. That is the most important factor. What we are seeing now is the change in Japan’s thinking about national security. I believe this process has been unfolding since the [1991] Persian Gulf war.

I think there was a sense in Japan that a traditional way of thinking about national security no longer worked for Japan. External environments were very different from what the Japanese had anticipated.

You had dynamism in China, You had the Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995 and 1996. You had the first North Korean nuclear crisis in 1993 and 1994. You had problems in the U.S.-Japan alliance because of the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl [by American servicemen]. You had [North Korea’s] Taepo-Dong missile launch [that overflew Japan’s main island]. You had the second North Korean nuclear crisis in 2002. You always have the invasions of [North Korean] spy boats and questions about [Japanese kidnapped by North Korean agents over decades].

I think you had the understanding in Japan that the world was very different from [what] they had expected. I think, at the same time, there was some thinking in Japan that the ways Japan had responded to them was no longer working.

Of course, the very important one was the response in 1991 when Japan contributed $13 billion to the first Persian Gulf war and no one noticed.

You also had Japan’s changing economy — several years of stagnation. And traditional tools of Japanese diplomacy were proving less useful. There was not as much money to give for [official development assistance].

The Chinese were not even noticing the ODA they had received. Japan was not being given any credit for it. And don’t forget, Japan sent peacekeepers to Cambodia in 1992 as part of [U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia]. …

There was a sense that Japan could play different kinds of role. Of course, there are problems with this — the [U.S.-drafted post-World War II] constitution is a big issue. I think bigger than that is the uncertainty in Japan about what role it wants to play in the world.

I think Prime Minister [Junichiro] Koizumi has some ideas. But I’m not sure that those ideas are shared by most Japanese. So, slowly, there is the beginning of a debate about what is Japan’s proper role in the world.

My answer to that question is that I think that is most importantly something that the Japanese people have to figure out for themselves.

[However], I personally think that the United States and Japan need to be more creative about how we think about our alliance, how we think about burden sharing. Because if, in fact, many of the threats in the 21 century are nontraditional security threats, they require different approaches to them.

They are not about armies. They are about diseases. They are about terrorism. They are about causes of terrorism. I think what Japan needs to do is to figure out the best way for it to contribute to solving these problems.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean always putting more troops on the ground and more ships to sea. … Honestly, I don’t think Japan helps the United States more by necessarily spending more money on the Self Defense Forces.

Q: So you think the U.S.-Japan alliance is more important than ever to the two countries’ interests, and to those of the region.

A: Yes. China and South Korea are changing. The U.S. presence in Asia is changing. Asia is changing, and Japan is changing.

With all of those changes, it seems to me we need a very stable foundation for Japan’s engagement in the region and for U.S. engagement in the region — something that keeps the U.S. there and reassures allies and our friends, and will deter possible adversaries and let them know that the United States will stay and commit to the region. I think the U.S.-Japan alliance is a very important part of that.

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