- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, spoke by telephone with Washington Times reporter Takehiko Kambayashi in Tokyo about military ties between the United States and Japan.

Q: The United States seems to have a high expectation of Japan revising the war-renouncing article of its postwar constitution.

A: The Bush administration, in contrast to its predecessors, is clearly in favor of either eliminating Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution or at least significant modification to Article 9. The development has received a lot of attention here in the American media.

Before the Bush administration, U.S. administrations seemed to have mixed feelings about whether Japan should play a more active security role. On one hand, they desired greater action on the part of Japan; on the other hand, they did not fully trust Japan and they were worried about reactions in the region.

The Bush administration from Day 1 has been in favor of Japan being a much more capable security partner for the U.S. I don’t think most members of the media and most members of a policy community in the U.S. understand the significance of that change in U.S. attitudes.

Q: In 1996, the U.S. and Japan agreed to return U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within five to seven years once they found an alternate site. The station, however, is still there, unlikely to be closed soon.

A: The problem is that the U.S. military does not want to give up the facilities. That is the basic problem. I think ultimately we are going to have to. This is just something that is so intrusive into the daily lives of people in Okinawa. But government institutions and government bureaucrats stall as long as humanly possible when it comes to something they don’t want to do.

The U.S. military has successfully stalled for almost a decade. It will be probably able to stall for a few more years, but I think ultimately we will have to give up Futenma. … This presence on Okinawa of the Marine Corps is the vestige of the old era and reflects old thinking.

Q: In an announcement in late October concerning U.S. realignment in Japan, the two countries agreed to “enhance the alliance’s capability to meet new threats and diverse contingencies.” Can you tell us what “diverse contingencies” might be?

A: It’s not clear to me that Tokyo and Washington are entirely in agreement about what those contingencies might be, particularly if it involves contingencies in the Taiwan Strait. That’s the second-most likely one.

The most likely one is North Korea. If the crisis in question involves North Korea, Japan and the U.S. are very much on the same page. They would want a vigorous response to that.

If it comes to Taiwan, the U.S. has been trying to talk Tokyo into willingness to participate militarily in terms of response to a Taiwan Strait crisis. I’m not sure that Japanese political leadership is prepared to go quite that far yet. So this is an ongoing process.

The U.S. is trying to broaden the U.S.-Japan alliance to take in any contingency in East Asia, including a crisis in the Taiwan Strait. We are trying to do the same thing with the South Korean alliance. … The South Korean government wants no part of that. They have no interest in broadening the alliance, and especially no interest in getting involved in a conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

The Japanese government’s attitude, as it always has been, is more ambivalent. They understand the importance of Taiwan. They certainly do not want to see PRC [People’s Republic of China] intimidation of Taiwan, much less a PRC takeover.

On the other hand, they realized this would be a very, very serious business if [Taiwan] joined with the U.S. in a confrontation against the PRC. So this discussion is ongoing, probably will be ongoing for some time.


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