How Will the New U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines Affect Regional Security?

CSIS Commentary, May 14th, 2015

hrs_hires_Carter-Kerry-JapaneseLeaders6x4 The new Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation were unveiled on April 27 in New York, coinciding with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Washington, D.C. The visit has been judged a major coup by many in the United States and a major success for the dynamic Japanese leader. If Abe’s goal was merely to bring the two Pacific powers into greater political alignment, then the trip was a remarkable success. The fact that alliance managers on both sides had worked hard to bring the two powers into greater military and security alignment added to that success. Both the prime minister’s U.S. visit and the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines (herein called “the guidelines”) are a reaction to growing insecurity in the Asia-Pacific region and an attempt to reinvigorate and recalibrate the alliance’s functions. What many regional states will now be wondering is what impact the new guidelines will have on regional security.

Complementing and informing the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, the 2015 Defense Guidelines act as a policy framework, a way for the two militaries to know what is and isn’t permissible within the scope of the alliance, and to guide the evolution of that cooperation. This iteration—replacing the 1997 guidelines—is being called “historic” by many, though others have been more cautious, saying that while significant, the guidelines do too little to restore the growing imbalance of power in the region. Perhaps predictably, China—itself seen by many states in a 2014 Pew Poll as a source for the growing instability—blasted the guidelines as a “relic from the Cold War.” The irony was lost on few in the region, given the frenzy of island reclamation and militarization that Beijing has carried out over the past month in its effort to project power over sea-lanes vital to the region.

Why Now?

In answer to the question posed by many, “why now?”, alliance managers have answered that the security environment of the region has changed drastically from the late 1990s, when the guidelines were last written. Then, the guidelines emphasized Japan’s growing willingness to act regionally and burden share in areas like peacekeeping, maritime security, and essentially to do more-than-defense-of-Japan duties. These changes seemed appropriate to a time when failed states and civil wars were the biggest challenges to the international community, and when the United States was searching for active partners. However, the changes made by the 2015 Guidelines are even more remarkable, with the alliance broadening its remit—geographically and to third-party countries—and deepening its functions—installing a new whole-of-government approach badly needed for operations other than war (OOTW). Then as now, the evolution of the alliance sees a growing equality between Washington and Tokyo, with greater burden sharing by the latter. Japan, it seems, may have arrived as a major security actor.

A Tougher Alliance, but How about Collective Self-Defense?

Regional actors will have noted that the guidelines have broadened previous geographical and functional limitations on the alliance. This simply brings the guidelines up to date with all that has occurred on the ground (or water) in terms of Japan’s growing involvement in international stability operations, from Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, to the growing appetite for European-Japan security cooperation. The guidelines do not give Japan the remit to broaden its geographic scope; rather, they provide the space for Japanese politicians to resolve that remit domestically. Furthermore, Japanese and U.S. forces can now cooperate in more types of operations. U.S. alliance managers noted with approval that Japan has opened space in the guidelines in the section covering ballistic missile cooperation to shoot down weapons headed toward the United States, a major issue when considering the threat from North Korea. In line with a Japanese cabinet decision made in July 2014, Japanese forces can now help any “foreign country that is in a close relationship with Japan,” on the condition that the attack “threatens Japan’s survival and poses a clear danger to fundamentally overturn (Japanese) people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As senior Japanese officials made clear at a CSIS briefing event on May 1, this remains a high threshold, open to interpretation.

For states like Vietnam and the Philippines, facing the brunt of Chinese assertiveness, this will remain a vague commitment. It does not guarantee that Japan will engage in third-country defense willy-nilly, but it does open the door to that possibility occurring in the future. For allies like Australia and South Korea, who have close working relationships with the Self-Defense Forces, this will be a provision to watch with interest in the coming years. It adds an element of realism to the growing interconnectedness between Japan and other U.S. allies and alliance networks and enables further evolution. A number of new domains, such as cyber, space, and small-scale attacks have been added, which also seek to deal with the growth of asymmetric, across-the-board attacks that Chinese tactical literature seems to favor. For U.S. allies in Europe, such as NATO member states, the development of cyber and intelligence cooperation with Japan becomes much more plausible with the advent of this limited form of collective self-defense.

Deterring and Strengthening

It will be interesting to see how China reacts to the tightening of the U.S.-Japan Alliance, perhaps giving them pause in their salami-slicing expansion into Japanese territorial waters. The Alliance Coordination Mechanism (ACM) reduces daylight between U.S. and Japan policymaking, institutionalizing policymaking among both military and civilian agencies. The bilateral planning component has also been strengthened and upgraded, again bringing in nonmilitary agencies into the process. The forces and government agencies will be more harmonized and better equipped to deal with operations other than war, noncombatant evacuation operations (NEO), and “gray zone” provocations. In dealing with any North Korean wartime or collapse scenario, these elements are essential. However, given the steady growth of Chinese naval assertiveness of the past few years, it may be Beijing rather than Pyongyang that triggers their use. How these functions look on paper is one thing; how they operate in practice, will be another.

One thing is certain: Chinese encroachment in the East China Sea will no longer find a surprised or passive alliance, as the guidelines put forward a range of proactive practices and institutions. The alliance will be more resilient: assets will be co-protected, while the addition of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) cooperation in the guidelines will enhance maritime and aerospace domain awareness, narrowing the possibility of surprise. And if surprises do come—and they invariably do in international relations—then the improved bilateral planning and policy coordination should better prepare U.S. and Japanese forces. The upshot of all this is likely to be a growing inability for China or North Korea to operate their forces “between the cracks of the alliance,” in the so-called safety of the gray zone. However, faced with such resilience, Beijing may pursue its options in other parts of the region. Frustrated in the East China Sea, Chinese expansionism may accelerate in the South China Sea. However, even there, the guidelines have developed a number of potential solutions. The primary one is that of capacity-building assistance; giving Southeast Asian states the wherewithal to protect or at least maintain their present maritime borders. A second, higher function is that of providing leadership for the region. The U.S.-Japan Alliance has long aspired to cement the region through its security partnerships. This has been apparent in its approach to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. These guidelines signal to other in the region Tokyo and Washington’s resolve to meet future challenges with firmness and may encourage growing solidarity with the alliance.

Forward the Alliance

It is difficult to predict how Beijing will react the new U.S.-Japan Alliance. Unfortunately, its track record isn’t the best. Wherever it has suffered resistance to its ambitions, it has denounced that resistance as “containment,” a useful communications strategy, designed to keep adversaries on a back foot. The irony is that continuing its attempts to secure the waters of its neighbors may well one day push regional states into just such a policy. Hopefully, such an outcome can be avoided as the regional balance of power continues to evolve and to shift. It is still unclear how a potential Chinese economic slowdown could affect events: it might promote further assertiveness, conversely new diplomatic overtures. Certainly, the guidelines and the overall inter-networking of U.S. and Western alliances will contribute to regional and global security, acting as a deterrent to those who would seek to reorder with force, in addition to dealing with issues of human security. One truism remains: the motives of political actors remain flexible and malleable; deterrence only has to fail once for disaster to ensue. However, the militaries of the United States and Japan are tasked with protecting other states with like-minded values, regional democracies that look to the alliance for security. The guidelines would certainly seem to be a step in the right direction, but if they are to deter and to protect, then the U.S.-Japan Alliance will have to continue to bolster and grow its capabilities. Furthermore, the Japanese public will have to debate and support this new iteration of the alliance. Whether that will happen remains to be seen.

 


Brad Glosserman and Scott Snyder as the dinner speakers.

Monday, 18 May, at 19:00 – 21:309780231171700

The Army & Navy Club, Farragut Square, Washington DC

 

The Policy Dinner Club is proud to announce that its next speakers will be Brad Glosserman (Pacific Forum CSIS) and Scott Snyder (CFR), who will speak about the identity and cultural issues in the Japan – South Korea bilateral relationship, with regard to US alliance dynamics. A dinner discussion will then ensue on the topic offered.

Their remarks will draw from their research of their book, which examines the ideational and identity-identity-related causes of discord between these two strong US allies. In their remarks at dinner, Glosserman and Snyder will examine some of the underlying notions of national identity and offer concrete policy prescriptions for US alliance managers.

Who:     Brad Glosserman (Pacific Forum CSIS), Scott Snyder (CFR)
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When:   19:00 to 21:30, 18 May, 2015
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Where:  The Army and Navy Club, Farragut Square, Washington DC
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Speakers Biographies

Brad Glosserman is executive director of the Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu, an independent program of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The Pacific Forum has provided policy-oriented analysis and promoted dialogue on regional security, political, economic, and environmental issues in the Asia-Pacific region since 1975. Mr. Glosserman oversees all aspects of Pacific Forum activities, including conferences, fellowships, publications, and administration. He is coeditor of Comparative Connections, the Pacific Forum’s triannual journal and writes, along with Pacific Forum president Ralph Cossa, the regional review. He is also the coauthor, with Scott Synder, of The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash (Columbia University Press, 2015), a study of national identity in Japan and South Korea and its impact on U.S. alliances. He recently completed a three-year study with Pacific Forum director of programs Carl Baker on the future of U.S. alliances in Asia and is finalizing a study on the impact of the March 11, 2011, “triple catastrophe” on Japan.

Scott Snyder is senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where he had served as an adjunct fellow from 2008 to 2011. Snyder’s program examines South Korea’s efforts to contribute on the international stage; its potential influence and contributions as a middle power in East Asia; and the peninsular, regional, and global implications of North Korean instability. Snyder is co-author of The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States (Columbia University Press, 2015). He also the co-editor of North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society (Rowman and Littlefield, October 2012), and the editor of Global Korea: South Korea’s Contributions to International Security (Council on Foreign Relations, October 2012) and The U.S.-South Korea Alliance: Meeting New Security Challenges (Lynne Rienner Publishers, March 2012). He served as the project director for CFR’s Independent Task Force on policy toward the Korean Peninsula. He currently writes for the blog, “Asia Unbound.”


Transparency and China’s Military Build-up

Dr. Oriana Skylar Mastro as the dinner speaker

Wednesday, 8 April at 19:00 – 22:0030775

Naval and Military Club

The Policy Dinner Club is proud to announce that its next speaker will be Dr. Oriana Skylar Mastro from Georgetown University, who will speak about the Chinese military spending and issues of transparency at the Naval and Military Club on the 8th of April. A dinner discussion will then ensue on the topic offered.

Despite the current optimism underlying the recent China-Japan-Korea trilateral meeting in Seoul this month, it is clear that there are deep systemic fissures in Northeast Asia, pushing the area towards open competition. One of the oft-repeated reasons for the growing tensions has been double digit growth in Chinese defense spending over the past 20 years and the lack of transparency in that spending. Dr. Mastro will speak on why Beijing’s strategic culture leads directly to this opaqueness and what impact it’s having on the wider region.

Who:         Dr. Oriana Skylar Mastro

When:       19:00 April 8th, 2015

Where:      The Naval and Military Club (the “In&Out”)

As always, diners are picked on a first-come, first-served basis and come from academia, the media, and the foreign and security policy community. Diners pay for their own meal, and we all pay collectively for the Speaker’s dinner. Please also note that there is a dress code at the Club which diners are expected to adhere to. As is the usual custom, all remarks are off the record and discussion occurs in an equanimous atmosphere: diners disagree with each other without being disagreeable.

Speaker’s Biography

Orgiana Skylar Mastro is an assistant professor of security studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University where her research focuses on Chinese military and security policy, Asia Pacific security issues, war termination, and coercive diplomacy. She is also in the US Air Force Reserve, for which she works as a reserve Air Attache for the Asia Pacific region. Dr. Mastro has worked in the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), RAND Corporation, and US PACOM. She holds a BA in East Asian Studies from Stanford University and an MA and PhD in politics from Princeton University.

She speaks Chinese.


The Long-Term Impact of Japan’s Hostage Crisis

International Relations and Security Network, March 19, 2015
Flag of Japan, courtesy of  Luc De Leeuw

The recent murder of Japanese hostages by ISIS has renewed debates about the country’s role in the world. The event has 1) strengthened the country’s resolve to ‘normalize’ itself, 2) illustrated the weaknesses of the pacifist Left, and 3) highlighted Shinzo Abe’s dependency on ‘Kantei Diplomacy’.

The kidnapping, attempted ransoming, and murder of two Japanese hostages by ISIS in Syria this January led to an intense debate in Tokyo and in the bureaucratic corridors of power in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo’s version of Whitehall. There have since been a number of attempts to understand the significance of the event for Japanese security and foreign policy-making. The conclusions, however, seem clear: first, the security policy that supposedly ‘set off’ the hostage crisis is not a recent phenomenon, and trying to frame the event as the immediate result of Abe’s nationalist or so-called militaristic agenda is simply wrong. Second, the crisis has seen a long-term shift to the right in Japanese domestic politics that has all but neutered the once-strong pacifist-oriented left. Third, and finally, the crisis showed that Kantei Diplomacy is alive and well, and that, although the fledgling National Security Council has added to the growing strength of executive power, it was unable to play a large role in the crisis due to a lack of intelligence-gathering capabilities.

A long policy trajectory

For those who would pin the blame for the crisis on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his recent shift towards a nationalist agenda, the reality is that Abe is simply the latest in a line of LDP figures who have pulled Japan out of the Yoshida Doctrine – Japan’s Cold War policy of economic neo-mercantilism – bringing it closer to the US and into a more global posture. While the taking of the hostages was directly linked to Abe’s commitment of $200 million in non-military aid to the fight against ISIS, the policy direction it represented long preceded his tenure in office. In fact, Japan’s foreign policy shift towards the Middle East dates back to the early 2000’s. In the days following the September 11th attacks, when most global leaders were still trying to comprehend the import of what had taken place, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged Japan’s full support to the United States. He was among the first to do so, along with NATO’s Secretary General Lord Robertson and the UK’s Prime Minister Tony Blair. With Koizumi’s personal blessing, the Japanese government passed legislation that allowed Japanese forces to lend logistical support to maritime forces around Afghanistan and to commit the proverbial ‘boots on the ground’ in Samawah Province, Iraq, where Japan’s SDF would carry out reconstruction work. At that time, another Japanese citizen – Shosei Koda – was beheaded by Al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2004.

There are many inside and outside Japan who believe that this policy direction sets a dangerous precedent. After all, as the 70th anniversary of the Second World War approaches, many in the region still remember the atrocities committed by Japanese troops and see the changes as a return to militarism. This is far from the case, however, as Japan’s shift has been driven by regional insecurity rather than nationalism or expansionism (though nationalism has been a personal motivation for Abe and those close to him). In fact, two of Japan’s harshest critics over this ‘normalization’, North Korea and China, have themselves built two of the region’s largest military forces, with China doubling its defence spending since 2008 and now spending more than four times as much as Japan. Anti-Japanese sentiment in China, fostered since the early 1990s, has also been utilized by Beijing to justify its salami-slicing expansionism towards Japan’s southwestern maritime corridor. As a result of this, LDP leaders have hewed closer to the United States and sought greater inter-operability with its and other allied forces, including those of Australia, NATO and South Korea. To some extent, Japan’s nationalists have also benefitted politically from this Chinese creeping expansion. While a number of senior bureaucrats and members of the LDP see this ‘normalization’ in nationalist terms, this may represent a ‘peak’, with some anticipating a return to liberal internationalism post-Abe.

The weakness of the left

The second result of the hostage crisis was to highlight the gradual loss of power and influence in Tokyo’s policy-making sphere of Japan’s pacifist left. This long-term decline has occurred for a number of reasons. The first is linked to the above-mentioned changes in Japan’s immediate region. Many say that the 2010 Fishing Boat crisis in the Senkaku Islands fostered a shift in Japanese public opinion, after Beijing was perceived to have acted heavy-handedly towards Japan over the arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain who rammed a Japanese Coast Guard cutter in Japanese waters. The belief that Chinese military power has grown may have led to more domestic support for Abe, though it is true that his election campaign was fought over the economy first and foremost.

Another more straight-forward reason that Japan’s pacifist left is weakening is that many of its members and constituents are simply growing old. Historically, the movement was the strongest immediately after the Second World War, when Japan’s devastated cities were a visible reminder of the case for peace. As Richard Lloyd Perry – a long–term resident in Japan and the London Times Asia Editor – remarked, “one inescapable fact of the weakening of the pacifist left is that many are simply dying out. You can also see it in the ages represented at the rallies.“ These rallies are increasingly marked by low attendance rates, with an April 2014 gathering attracting only 3,000 people . On the other hand, a poll conducted by the left-of-centre Asahi Shimbun newspaper indicated that 64% of Japanese citizens remain opposed to re-interpreting the Constitution, indicating their reluctance to completely abandon the status quo. That said, the Japanese public was initially skeptical of its first forays into peacekeeping in the 1990s, and polls have shown that support has only grown.

The strength of ‘Team Abe’

Third and finally, the crisis was marked by strong leadership by the Prime Minister and his aides. Indeed, Abe was aware that the hostages had been taken when he committed aid to the fight against ISIS, showing remarkable determination and confidence. That confidence is down to Abe himself, but it is also the result of having a strong team in place. ‘Team Abe,’ as it might be called, has benefitted significantly from ‘Kantei Diplomacy’, or the rise of the office of Prime Minister and the cabinet secretariat in a landscape traditionally dominated by the bureaucracy and by political parties. First used by a Japanese academic, Tomohito Shinoda, in his book on the subjectKantei Diplomacy has seen the powers of the Prime Minister and the size of his team increase. This larger secretariat – which can provide expert advice independently of the ministries – has enabled the Prime Minister to draft legislation and to manage crises more confidently. While the three DPJ Prime Ministers who followed Koizumi were ultimately unable to harness the power of the Kantei, Abe has been more successful in doing so, largely through his choice of key bureaucrats and politicians in positions of power around him. For instance, many in the bureaucracy believe that choosing LDP strongman Yoshihide Suga as cabinet secretary has been key to Abe’s success. Because Suga does not want the premiership, Abe has been able to entrust his deputy with considerable power. This has enabled the no-nonsense Suga to manage and discipline the bureaucracy quite effectively, often by reassigning recalcitrant bureaucrats to less glamorous posts. Abe has also managed to harness the power of the MOD and MOFA by filling the National Security Council from among their ranks. Shotaro Yachi and Nobutsuke Kanehara are two senior NSC staff members from MOFA, while the MOD has been represented by Nobushige Takamizawa.

Overall, the hostage crisis revealed a Japanese leadership more willing to take risks in the field of security policy and more hardened to changing domestic fortunes. While the death of the two journalists was a shock for the Japanese public, the Prime Minister’s foreign policy agenda was not widely blamed. Indeed, as one diplomat stated, it is as if everyone came out of the crisis more convinced of the rightfulness of its direction. This has included the pacifist wing (though they seem to have little influence on decision-making). Finally, it must be said that while the Prime Minister was able to handle the crisis from within the cabinet, it is notable that the National Security Council did not play a large role during the 18 day crisis. Most of the action took place in the basement of the Kantei, as the NSC’s inability to provide raw intelligence prevented it from being the locus of activity. Doubtless, the creation of a unified framework for Japan’s intelligence community, safely regulated as behooves a liberal democracy, is the next step in Japan’s evolution towards normal statehood.

 


The Future of UK-Japan Defense Ties

Junichi Nishiyama, Director of the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies as the dinner speakerJunichiNishiyama201211-277x300

Thursday, 19 March at 19:00 – 22:00

Naval and Military Club

The Policy Dinner Club is proud to announce that its next speaker will be Junichi Nishiyama, who will speak about current trends in the UK-Japan defense relationship, while touching upon possible future cooperation in defense industry and space technology. A dinner discussion will then ensue on the topic offered.

The relationship between the UK and Japan has begun to grow rather quickly over the past 10 years, and the recent 2+2 (foreign and defense ministers meeting) in London this January saw a number of future defense and security agreements made. Among these include defense cooperation in industry, cyber and space.

Of these, the latter has quickly grown in importance as a facet of national security. Meanwhile, there has been a steady decline in UK defense research and development, coupled with decreased defense spending. The combination has meant that the UK must do more with less, and this requires it to reach out to defense partners across the globe, who reflect its values and commitment to human rights. Japan fits the bill, having remained at peace for nearly 60 years. Similarly, Japan faces a broad range of challenges in the Asia Pacific, including continued North Korean bellicosity and growing Chinese military power. For that reason, Japan defense industry has begun to reach out for foreign partners, as Japanese political leaders lean more and more towards the West as a means of hedging their threats.

Who:          Junichi Nishiyama

When:        19:00-22:00, 19 March, 2015

Where:        The Naval and Military Club (map)

Please note that dinners are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Please also note that there is a dress code at the Club and diners are expected to adhere to that.

All remarks and discussion taking place after the initial speech are off-the-record and not-for-attribution, so as to further the warm and informal nature of the dinners. Should you wish to book seats or have any other questions, please let John Hemmings know immediately by emailing him at j.hemmings1@lse.ac.uk

Speaker’s Biography

Mr. Nishiyama is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Future Engineering, a Director at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies and a senior adviser to the Lower House of the Japanese Diet on technology. He began his career at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) in 1971, and has worked on missile systems development, the Patriot System, and Ballistic Missile Defense as an engineer. He became a General Manager of the Guided Weapons Department in 1998, and Deputy General Manager of the Aerospace Headquarters in 2004. In 2011, he became a senior advisor to MHI and since then worked in and around policy-making in the think tank community, working and speaking with AFCEA, CSIS, JFSS, among others.

Mr. Nishiyama continues to give advice to a number of senior politicians within the LDP on space technology, among other areas of research.


Japan-UK Ties and the Quiet Revolution in Japanese Foreign Policy

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International Relations and Security Network, February 7, 2015

On 21 January 2015, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defence Minister Gen Nakatani met with their UK counterparts, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defence Secretary Michal Fallon in London at what was the first UK-Japan Foreign and Defence Ministerial. The meeting – known as a 2+2 – was remarkable for two reasons. The first was Tokyo’s commitment to an ambitious program of policy cooperation with London. The second was the realization in Whitehall that Japan’s approach towards security has fundamentally changed. While the Western press and policy community have written much on Japan’s changing security stance, and even more about the man behind those changes –Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – there has been less consideration of the implications for British and European security. Overall, the January meeting raised important questions about the nature of Japan’s new security posture. As Japan pivots away from the ‘neo-mercantilist’ policies it pursued during the Cold War, it is increasingly embracing the principles of liberal internationalism in its foreign policy. This makes Japan a highly appealing security partner for Britain and Europe.

A quiet revolution

Until recently, Japan was seen as a ‘pacifist’ country: its leadership disdained geopolitics and seemingly had few ambitions to wield hard power or enter into security relationships beyond its primary relationship with the United States. In a strategy that became known as the Yoshida Doctrine, the country focused on being a ‘neo-mercantilist’ power that remained uninvolved in Cold War flashpoints. Over time, however, this policy stance became a victim of its own success. Though Washington was bound to defend Japan, it received little by way of burden-sharing or regional security cooperation in return. Tensions grew during the 1980’s when many in the West – such as Paul Kennedy and Ezra Vogel – predicted that Japan would overtake the US as the world’s largest economy. Washington believed that Japan was free-riding on US defence spending and shirking its commitments to the alliance.

Were Prime Minister Yoshida alive today, he would barely recognize Japan’s growing global security posture. While Japanese security cooperation with the UK remains less extensive than with other US allies, such as Australia and South Korea, the January meeting was nevertheless impressive in scope. For one, it resulted in aJoint Statementand Annex whereby the two countries pledged to continue cooperating on issues ranging from disarmament and non-proliferation to maritime security and anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. They also acknowledged growing bilateral cooperation in the space and cyber realms, and looked forward to signing an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA). This would allow for military-to-military servicing and repair, and would provide the foundation for joint military operations. In addition, the UK acknowledged and supported Japan’s growing cooperation with NATO and the EU, noting that JSDF vessels have been participating in Operation Ocean Shield alongside the EU Naval Force. The core of the meeting, however, was the launch of a number of joint-defence equipment and technology projects, including an air-to-air missile and chemical protective gear, and discussion of the possibility of exporting Japan’s P-1 maritime patrol aircraft to the UK.

Seen from Europe, Japan’s behavior might be explained as realpolitik. After all, Japan has had a front row seat as China has re-emerged as a great power and rapidly built a modern and highly capable military. While China’s economy experienced double-digit growth for more than a decade, Japan’s once-mighty economy stagnated. In 2010, China’s economy surpassed Japan’s in aggregate terms. Certainly, some would argue that Japan’s outreach is merely a way of enticing Europe to become more involved in East Asia. There is some truth to this. Japanese political elites and foreign policy bureaucrats have watched Chinese assertiveness on its periphery with mounting concern over the past decade. Indeed, one Japanese official called the 2010 clash over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands ‘a wake-up call’. Continued North Korean belligerence and its acquisition of nuclear weapons have also sharpened Japan’s concerns about regional security.

But Japan’s outreach to other regions is about more than narrow self-interest. European policy-makers should be aware that the quiet revolution in Japanese foreign policy has internal drivers as well. Japan is in the midst of a serious identity shift, comparable to that which followed the Meiji restoration or the growth of militarism in the 1930s. In the process, it has come to realize that distant regional and global issues directly affect Japan, and that it can no longer expect the West –namely Washington – to ensure its security while it focuses on amassing economic power. Despite criticism of his historical revisionism, Prime Minister Abe seems determined to retain the moral aspect of Japan’s pacifist identity. In Japanese, his foreign policy is referred to as sekkyokuteki heiwashugi(積極的平和主義), which literally means ‘active pacifism.’ In English, this becomes ‘active contributor to peace.’

From neo-mercantilism to liberal internationalism

Abe’s foreign policy outlook, while admittedly fed by Japanese conservatism and nationalism, mixes Japan’s pacifist identity with a strong strand of liberal multilateralism. Nobukatsu Kanehara, one of Abe’s closest foreign policy advisors and a current Assistant Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, is the clearest of these voices. He and other members of Abe’s inner circle – such as Shotaro Yachi (Chairman of the NSC) and Assistant Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobushige Takamizawa – have been the most active in promoting this new outlook. As they see it, Japan’s challenge is not to oppose or contain China as a rising power – as many in Beijing believe – but to guide China through its ‘bullish’ phase and teach it how to become a responsible, rule-abiding power. Time and time again, Abe and his team have based their foreign policy outlook on liberal democratic values. Odd though it may sound, this marks a clear break from the past: neo-mercantile Japan positively avoided value- based policies during the Cold War, with postwar Prime Minister and Yoshida-Doctrine-adherent Miyazawa Kiichi going so far as to say that Japan’s foreign policy was, in fact, “a pretense of a foreign policy” and that “the only value judgments we can make are determining what is in Japan’s interest.”

This shift is one that European policy-makers would do well to heed. Though it hardly guarantees that Japanese forces will be joining their British counterparts in future military engagements, it does mean that Japan will no longer watch from the sidelines. Tokyo has become an active defender – with hard power, if necessary – of the liberal international order. In practice, European and Japanese security communities are on the verge of a significant increase in security cooperation on issues ranging from ISIS, to Russian revanchism in the Crimea, to evolving space and cyber security challenges. Even with a defence spending cap far below European states (hovering just above 1%), Japan maintains one of the largest and most modern military forces in the world and has much to offer in terms of defence technology. Furthermore, it is likely that its defence spending will rise in the years to come.

Japan’s quest for security over the past two decades has led it to abandon the narrow mercantilism it once trumpeted. Situated in a dynamic region with not one but two rising powers – China and India – Tokyo has come to realize that it can no longer passively accept regional security guarantees from others. In coming to this realization, it has developed active and willing partnerships with Canberra and Delhi, among others. Moreover, Japan has begun to ask a question that it has avoided for nearly six decades, i.e., what is Japan’s moral role as an international actor? Though far from answered, the fact that an answer is now being attempted should be welcome news for Europe. While Japan’s militarism is still remembered by many in Asia, it has unquestionably become a positive contributor to international stability. With its heavy lift capabilities, its large naval force, and growing cyber capacities, Japan has become an increasingly useful partner for the UK, for NATO, and for other EU states. In a world beset by challenges – including economic ones – Japan now offers a capable and welcome hand.


Understanding the US Pivot: Past, Present, and Future

RUSI Newsbrief, 26 November, 2014

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With the resurrection of Russian revanchism on Europe’s Eastern borders and the near-collapse of the Iraqi and Kurdish states under the onslaught of ISIS, it seems as though the American pivot to Asia may be over before it has begun. Certainly, America’s ‘first Pacific President’, as he has been described, has found it more difficult than anticipated to end America’s wars in the Middle East and swing the country’s focus towards the Asia-Pacific.

The Obama administration’s ‘pivot’ to Asia was created during the re-election campaign by a group of the president’s closest advisors, with personal input by the president himself. Initiated with the prediction that Asia would become the centre of the global economy by 2050, by the belief that the US’s political absence had been bad for regional security, and by the notion that the US had become bogged down for too long in unwinnable wars in the Middle East. Emerging as a term to describe the US’s new Asia policy, a key assumption was that despite the challenges posed to the West by Islamists non-state actors and terrorist groups like Al-Qa’ida, these threats were manageable and the true focus of the US should instead be on Asia. The need for the US to shift its diplomatic, economic and defence resources to the region was perceived as especially urgent with the rise of Chinese regional power and influence, and China’s apparent inclination to exercise its burgeoning military power in territorial spats with its neighbours. The fact that these spats affected sea lanes vital to the US and its allies meant that their peaceful resolution was of direct concern to Washington. While these circumstances continue to exist, however, it is clear that growing insecurity in Europe and the Middle East mean that the US and its allies will now have to co-ordinate a much more holistic global strategy for the future.

In the three years since the pivot was unveiled, the policy has been much criticised, much maligned, and some would argue, much misunderstood. This is perhaps because it challenges a number of assumptions inherent to the ‘pre-pivot’ world. First, it challenges the notion that Europe is the global centre of gravity; second, it challenges the notion that the Middle East should be Washington’s overriding security priority; and third, it implicitly challenges the assumption that China will become the region’s lead power. At home, its domestic critics claim that the policy represents mere Democratic posturing, representing – at best – a simple repackaging of various Bush-era policies, including the trilaterals – a unique set of quasi-alliances with Japan, Australia, South Korea and India established between 2002 and 2010 – closer ties with Tokyo, and capability-building among Southeast Asian states. Why claim that the US would return to Asia, they puzzled, when it had actually never left.

Asian critics of the pivot also emerged, viewing the policy as overly-antagonistic toward China, and likely to fuel great-power rivalry, which might force regional states into an unwanted binary choice. Oddly, this saw the same Southeast Asian states that had back-channelled requests for greater US presence in the region voice disquiet as the policy was rolled out, fearing a Chinese backlash. This was not long in coming, as Chinese officials and media blasted the policy as a euphemism for containment – one they claimed rested on a Cold War, balance-of-power logic. Despite the administration’s insistence that this was not the case, the charge became a handy weapon for Beijing to keep Washington on a back foot as President Obama and others toured the region in April.

In Europe, understanding of the policy was even less apparent. Many US allies viewed the shift with alarm, and despite Hillary Clinton’s claim that the US could ‘walk and chew gum at the same time’, there was a concern that the prioritisation of Asia was at Europe’s expense.

Indeed, the ‘pivot’ represented an unfortunate choice of nomenclature as it implied that the US only had one face, and like a player on a basketball court, would pivot either in one direction or another in order to move up court. This debate caused led to an unfortunate dumbing down of the actual issues behind the policy, and one that led to increased misrepresentations of overall US global strategy.

Attempts to correct this definitional issue foundered in light of the fact that President Obama personally liked the term, leaving American diplomats floundering between the use of ‘pivot’ and ‘rebalancing’. In some ways, the debate came to resemble that which had clouded China’s 2003 ‘Peaceful Rise’ policy, in which China’s efforts to reassure the region backfired when many observed the balance of power connotations in the term ‘rise’. Obama administration officials at the coal face of the policy, such as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, worked hard to get the debate back on track by focusing on substantive issues and de-emphasing the policy name on his visits around the region. However, by 2012, the fiscal climate in Washington had begun to deteriorate, sowing new suspicion that Washington could ill-afford the new policy.

The sequestration in 2013 and ensuing budget cuts to the Department of Defense (hitting the Navy particularly hard) have led some, like Senator John McCain, to question the administration’s ability to fund the policy, despite its insistence that such funding was ring-fenced. At a defence industrial event in March 2014, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Katrina McFarland told the audience that ‘the pivot is being looked at again, because candidly, it can’t happen’. Within hours of her remarks, McFarland sought to withdraw them, contacting Navy Times, which was due to publish her comments, with a correction. The unfortunate back-and-forth served only to heighten the gathering suspcioun both within Washington and in the Pacific region that the administration will be unable to follow through on its intentions.

And yet, despite its fiscal challenges, the Obama administration maintains that its efforts in the Asia-Pacific will continue, and despite naysayers, has demonstrated its commitment to the pivot through a major political and military outreach programme. This has included an increase in presidential visits to the region – Obama having carried out more than any other sitting president – significant changes to the country’s defence posture in-region, with new deployments to Australia and Singapore, and an increased American presence in regional fora such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the East Asia Summit (EAS). On top of that, it has sought – with limited success so far – to re-energise its economic relationship with the region through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

However, despite all of this, perhaps critics of the pivot are right in one way: US attention to the region cannot come at the expense of others. As the economies of the Asia-Pacific grow, for example, so too do their dependence on Middle Eastern energy supplies, linking the security of the two regions. The US will therefore have to adopt a more holistic approach to its global strategy and continue trying to co-ordinate with its allies to establish what each can do, and where they can best do it. The pivot to Asia cannot leave behind security of the Middle East, when so many of its Asian and European allies depend on the region for their energy supplies.

US allies in Europe and in Asia can play a constructive role in developing and implementing this linked-up strategy, as a loose bloc to defend and augment the current rules-based order. Indeed, there have already been some nascent signs of this as allies in the Asia-Pacific have become more integrated into NATO missions in the Middle East and the Gulf of Eden, and in Brussels. There have also been signs of European allies integrating politically with Asian powers. Further institutionalised co-operation between these states and NATO is a good way forward, also helping to build up capacity in key target areas, like cyber-security and maritime security. This has already begun – on a limited capacity – between key US allies like the UK, Australia, and Japan.

Those European allies pushing for the US to recommit to Europe will also have to put their own houses in order and recommit to NATO spending targets, despite the recession. The fact that last year the US accounted for more than 73 per cent of all NATO defence spending (up from 68 per cent in 2007), is a sorry state of affairs that simply cannot continue. The US simply cannot carry the weight of all of its allies.

European allies will also have to acknowledge Asia’s importance in US global strategy; after all, Asia – as the future centre of the global economy – is becoming more important to them too. As such, in addition to taking on more stepping up in Eastern Europe and in the Mediterranean, they should help to free up those US assets that are needed in Asia. They can also adopt a more co-ordinated approach towards defence exports to China – one more in line with a broader Western strategy. Meanwhile, another little acknowledged facet of China’s build-up has been its use of European military technology, acquired in civilian joint ventures with firms like Eurocopter, Agusta Westland and Pratt & Whitney. The US should not have to deal with advanced European systems in its bid to maintain stability and a balance of power.

Finally, US strategy in the Asia Pacific region must continue to try to manage the Thucydidean trap presented by China’s rise by careful hedging, combining political engagement with hard balancing. Whether referred to as a pivot, rebalance or something else entirely, Washington must pursue policies that strengthen its Asian allies, including new models of security co-operation, while also trying to deter China from military revanchism. If one compares this period to the 1930s, when Western liberal democracies and the League of Nations were in disarray, one might see that the cards are stacked more in the Western power’s favour. Unlike in that period, the US is fully and proactively committed to the defence of global stability, and its allies – though in financial straits – are co-ordinated and committed to the same. Going forward, this generation must not repeat the mistakes of the past and lose sight of the need to defend the current rules-based order

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