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Japan and the United States: the Brittle Alliance

ISSUE:  Winter 1981

Thirty years ago the postwar relationship between the United States and Japan—loosely called an alliance, though technically nothing of the sort—became fixed in the mold set by the MacArthur shogunate, the Japanese Constitution of 1946, and the Mutual Security Treaty of 1952. Since that time, Japan has emerged as the third industrial nation of the world and the dominant economic force in Asia. Japan also fulfills a vital military role for the United States, as potential staging area, repair base, unsinkable aircraft carrier, and gatekeeper to the maritime exit routes of Siberia. Yet by no stretch of the imagination can Japan be considered to be an independent ally with a national security policy of its own. Except at the routine level of ordinary diplomatic intercourse, it cannot even be said to have its own foreign policy.

The fall of the Ohira government, and the devolution of power to a transitional ministry headed by Zenko Suzuki, makes a reassessment of Japanese foreign policy by the Liberal Democratic leadership virtually inevitable. The central question of that reassessment is bound to be Japan’s relationship with the United States, for in its foreign relations Japan is in many respects an American dependency. Despite the fact that the scope of the Mutual Security Treaty covers a relatively narrow range of eventualities, and is to all intents and purposes confined to the Western Pacific, it has increasingly been invoked by the United States to cover situations for which it was never intended. Whenever this has failed, the nuclear umbrella has been brought into play to justify U.S. “leadership” in crises that often have little to do with Japan.

Beyond the politico-military level the alliance relationship has been subtly broadened to cover a host of economic problems, mainly dealing with the economic threat posed by Japanese industrial and high-technology exports. The security relationship has been used by the United States to impose upon Japan a set of rules of international political and economic intercourse that can be redefined to suit the circumstances.

The pressure on Japan to conform to the shifting political and economic needs of the United States has increased markedly in the last five years. The Ford administration made explicit its desire for Japanese rearmament, and since that time a new U.S. strategic doctrine for the Pacific has evolved which casts Japan in the role of a forward maritime bastion in a new containment policy against the Soviet Union linked to the Chinese land mass. At a series of “economic summits” Japan was first persuaded to adopt policies aimed at pulling the United States and Western Europe out of a slump by increasing imports (the “locomotive”)—then urged to salvage the inefficient industries of its trading partners by reducing its more competitive exports. In December 1979, at the beginning of the hostage crisis, the United States rebuked Japan for buying up Iranian oil at exorbitant prices. In 1980 Japan was pressed to join the United States in economic sanctions against Iran and to boycott the Moscow Olympic games.

For Japan, the U. S. “alliance” has meant one demand after another to conform with the shifting foreign policy demands of its ally, regardless of their incompatibility with Japanese interests and wishes, not to mention their irrelevancy to the stated terms of the Mutual Security Treaty. So far, Japan has silently though grudgingly acquiesced. How much longer this situation can last is the key question raised by this article.

Before discussing the nature of the U. S. -Japanese relationship a few words on the cultural background are necessary. Dealing with the Japanese at any level presents special problems to the West, and particularly to the United States, because of two characteristics peculiar to Japanese society— their ethnocentric outlook and the cellular, mutually supportive organization of a society that operates by consensus.

The Japanese version of Buddhism and the ethical precepts that spring from it place primary emphasis on intragroup loyalty and mutual obligation as prescribed by a rigid hierarchy of precedence. Japanese culture is deficient in broad ethical concepts that have universal application to the world at large, and these cultural propensities are reinforced by Japan’s insular situation and the mystical view of the Japanese people of their racial origins. Hence the dichotomy between the disciplined, crime-free, and relatively frictionless functioning of Japanese society on the one hand and the insensitive and frequently brutal treatment of outsiders—witness the appalling atrocities inflicted on helpless Chinese civilians and Allied prisoners during World War II. Rules of international conduct will be faithfully obeyed, but the notion of a global community regulated by tacit and unspoken principles of international intercourse is still difficult for the Japanese to comprehend.

In addition, the tightly knit and mutually supportive nature of Japanese society makes open collision of ideas or frank avowal of disagreement difficult to sustain. Japanese decision-making at every level relies on the evolution of consensus through painful stages of elliptical discussion. The historic decision of 1941 for war against the United States, Great Britain, and Holland, for example, was taken only after three years of agonizing internal debate, punctuated by “Throne Conferences” in which all segments of the Japanese society participated at the highest level. The concept of executive responsibility with a “buck stops here” style of decision-making, so admired in the United States, is wholly alien to the Japanese tradition. So is the sharp line of demarcation between politically selected policy-makers, whether executive or legislative, and a compliant bureaucracy. In Japan, a cabinet-style government that operates like a council of elders is dependent on the senior ranks of the permanent civil service.

The result is a finely tuned system of policy-making easily thrown off balance by crises and external pressure. To its credit, the United States has recognized the sensitive nature of the Japanese decision-making process and tries to tread warily, even to the extent of soothing Japanese sensibilities by expunging all reference to Japanese war atrocities in Manchuria and China and reexpiating at suitable intervals the crime of Hiroshima. But these palliatives merely lend an air of hypocrisy to an underlying relationship that still partakes of the nobleman and vassal.


Towering above all other factors in the U. S. -Japanese relationship are financial and economic issues. The societal reforms instituted by the U.S. occupation have succeeded beyond General MacArthur’s wildest dreams. All the ferocity and demonic energy that fueled Japanese militarism in the early part of the century have for 35 years been diverted into peaceful channels—with the result that technological progress and economic expansion have become the principal vehicle for projecting Japanese power into the international arena. Unfortunately, Japan’s single-minded pursuit of economic advancement has already begun to arouse the same resentment and protective reactions in Western Europe and the United States that Japanese aggression and militarism aroused in the thirties. The perceived need of other industrial countries to promote their own exports and protect their domestic industries from external competition have added an undertone of desperation to the Japanese effort and provoked new tensions in Japanese foreign relations with the West.

Taken as a whole the postwar Japanese economic experience has been a resounding success. In three decades Japan’s real GNP has made a 13-fold increase—the fastest economic leap forward of any major country in world history. Japanese living standards in large cities are now almost equal to those of the West, despite the fact that between 1955 and 1978 retail prices have risen at twice the wholesale price growth rate. In 1978 Japan actually had a higher GNP per head than the United States, though the depressed 1980 exchange rate of the yen has now artificially lowered GNP to below the U.S. level. Government is also much less of a burden in Japan. The Japanese spend only 25 percent of their GNP on government expenditures in every form, as compared with 35 percent in the United States and 44 percent in Great Britain. A Japanese household with an income of $25,000 dispenses less than 8 percent of this sum in income tax.

For Japan, as for the rest of the developed world, 1979 was a watershed year. Industrial production and new investment in plant and equipment rose, while inflation at the consumer level remained at a low 4.5 percent and real GNP growth rate at 6 percent, demonstrating the continuing competitiveness of Japanese goods in foreign markets. Nevertheless by the end of the year, after a decade of heavy surpluses—$16.5 billion in 1978 alone—another rise in oil prices threw the Japanese balance of payments into deficit while the yen tumbled from 176 to the dollar to 240.

For 1980 the Japanese Economic Council has adopted a revised economic and social development plan that calls for a growth target of 5.7 percent annually, with inflation to be held to 5 percent and unemployment reduced from the present 2.2 percent to 1.7 percent. In theory this goal is to be achieved by less concentration on foreign export earnings, greater emphasis on expansion of the domestic Japanese market, and increased expenditure on public works. Actually, the search continues for assembly-line products to be aimed at export markets that are still unsaturated. Automation is now being installed to bring down production costs for these products even further; and already, according to the Japan Productivity Council, productivity per employee in the 1979—80 financial year has risen by 12 percent.

The targets of the Economic Council will not all be met— consumer prices have already risen 7.6 percent and wholesale prices 21.4 percent—but industrial productivity and export expansion are being pushed to the limit. Japan produced three million automobile vehicles in the first six months of 1980, and Toyota and Nissan now rank second and third after General Motors in vehicle production. New methods of enhancing Japanese competitiveness are constantly being applied. In the high-technology field, for example, the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) is providing research and development subsidies to the major computer manufacturers (Fujitsu, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, NEC, and Toshiba) for improvements in “pattern recognition” technology—colors, voices, shapes, and Chinese and Japanese language characters—to be incorporated in the next generation of computers.

Plans are also afoot to make inroads into such overseas domestic markets as hotel and supermarket chains, retail stores, cosmetics, and banking. The two leading electronic chipmakers (Fujitsu and Hitachi), which already have 40 percent of the U.S. market, are planning to set up European plants as a means of increasing their market share within the EEC.

The more Japan augments its exports to compensate for higher energy costs, the more Japan’s industrial partners erect or threaten to erect trade barriers to limit Japanese imports. Britain, France, Italy, and Spain have already enacted formal or informal curbs on Japanese automobile imports. Japan’s trade surplus with the EEC has grown alarmingly in the last two years—up 35 percent in dollar terms as against an almost level trade balance with the United States—and pressure is again mounting for controls at the Community level. Japan’s market share of British automobile sales is up to 15 percent, and in West Germany it has risen to nearly 10 percent. Even the local plant solution is considered unsatisfactory by the European automobile industry: Fiat is trying to block a joint-venture arrangement between Nissan and Alfa Romeo, and France is lobbying within the Community to prevent similar arrangements between BL-Honda in Britain and Nissan and Motor-Iberica in Spain. In the United States the surge in energy-efficient Japanese car imports—capturing 23 percent of the market in the first six months of 1980—has led to thousands of lay-offs accompanied by renewed demands for import quotas unless Japanese manufacturers build assembly plants within the United States. The U.S. response to date has been to raise the tariff on Japanese cars.

It is therefore small wonder that Japan is once again looking to its traditional markets in Asia to provide investment and export outlets. Singapore is now the second largest destination of new Japanese investment with 138 Japanese companies in Singapore, employing a labor force of 28,000 that produces $540 million worth of goods a year, mostly destined for the U.S. market. A recent survey conducted by the Technova Consultants firm of Tokyo revealed that nearly half of the 474 Japanese manufacturing companies interviewed expect their foreign activity—exports plus overseas production—to triple within five years.

Considering Japan’s dependency on outside sources for 89 percent of its energy needs, the traumatic shocks inflicted on the world economy in the past six years by rising raw material costs, and mounting competition from countries like Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore, the careful course charted by Japan’s economic experts has been an outstanding success. Neither OPEC price increases nor foreign protectionism have so far prevented Japan from keeping its unemployment level down at a derisory 1.2 percent and inflation below 8 percent.

Unfortunately, instead of drawing on the Japanese experience to rectify its own economic errors, the response of the Carter administration, in collaboration with a few (but not all) of its European allies, was to try to drag Japan down into its own mire of crippling inflation, catastrophic interest rates, protection of antedeluvian industries, and rising unemployment. At three widely-heralded “economic summit” meetings the economists of the Carter administration did their best to persuade Japan to follow suit downhill by urging it to (a) raise its GNP growth rate by expanding budget deficits and the money supply; (b) keep down interest rates, while at the same time artificially raising the value of the yen as a means of curbing trade surpluses; (c) end import restrictions—and at the same time curtail low cost exports, and (d) further cut back the Japanese trade surplus by stockpiling raw materials—but without causing price increases.

The self-serving and contradictory policies forced on Japan by U.S. advisers at the Carter economic summits are a classic example of the way external meddling has compounded Japan’s economic problems in a period of world-wide economic crisis. Every step that Japan took in compliance with these importunities—in particular, the program to stockpile oil, which reached its peak during the Iranian crisis of 1979— worsened both its own economic predicament and world inflation. With friends like the United States, Japan hardly needs an enemy.

In comparison with other major countries, economic strands dominate the web of Japanese political relationships with other countries. In its need to keep its head above water, Japan will certainly respond to foreign countermeasures by trying to redouble its exports to the advanced industrial world either directly or by increasing its production capabilities in the Third World. A steady weakening of political ties with the West will be the inevitable result of this cycle of penetration and retaliation.

Japan’s economic strength is what makes it a bastion of the free world in Asia. Instead of capitalizing on this asset, the West, in particular the United States, is pursuing policies calculated either to convert Japan into a flabby economic satellite in the Western image or to make it a resentful outlaw in the global economy.


The other significant aspect of Japanese foreign relations, equally misunderstood by the United States, is its national security policy, now a subject of rising debate and controversy.

By Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution of 1946, the Japanese people not only renounce forever the use of war as an instrument of national policy but also the threat of force as a means of settling disputes. Maintenance of land, sea, and air forces is prohibited, as are nuclear weapons.

Despite these prohibitions, Japan does indeed maintain a military establishment, which it euphemistically styled the Self-Defense Forces. Defense expenditures are held to a self-imposed ceiling of just under 1 percent of gross national product, but Japan’s 1979—80 military budget is $10.08 billion— the seventh largest in the world. The bulk of the military budget is spent in supporting the 260,000 members of the Self-Defense Forces, but there are substantial set-asides for purchase and maintenance of expensive military equipment— $14 billion worth of American aircraft and additional naval vessels during the current five-year military buildup.

The Self-Defense Forces are organized along conventional military lines and have conventional missions except in one significant respect: in deference to Japan’s renunciation of force as an instrument of policy, the weapons systems and military units of the Self-Defense Forces are required to be “defensive” in character, at least in the sense of not being able to project Japanese military power overseas on any significant scale. Thus the Japanese “Navy” is limited to anti-submarine destroyers, frigates, and escort vessels, 47 in all. Its 13 submarines are short-range. Japanese armament does not so far include landing craft or aircraft carriers equipped with long-range fighter bombers. The “air force” has no long-range bombers and no strategic airlift. The “army” is well-equipped as regards mobility and fire power, but it has only a limited paratroop capability and no means of overseas transportation and amphibious lodgment.

For the first time since 1945, Japanese political parties— and more importantly the factions of the Liberal Democratic Party headed by former Prime Ministers Fukuda and Miki— now agree that military policy is a legitimate topic of national debate. The Defense White Paper published on July 24, 1979 noted the deterioration of the global strategic balance in favor of the Soviet Union and called for a more independent evaluation of Japan’s security requirements in terms of conventional military power. In March 1980 the Japanese Diet established a defense committee which, even though it will have no formal role in the enactment of defense legislation or makeup of the military budget, will act as a focal point and forum for discussion of defense policy. This action of the Diet comes on the heels of nearly two years of increasingly outspoken public statements by the civilian directors of the defense agency about defense strategy and materiel requirements and openly expressed concern in Japanese official circles about Japanese national security policy.

The crux of Japan’s defense problem is that, ever since the U.S. occupation, Japan’s national security has been wholly dependent on the U.S. nuclear umbrella and the protection afforded by U.S. military forces stationed in Japan, Okinawa, and South Korea. The terms of this dependency are formalized in the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty which, except in the economic realm, has since 1952 been the pivot around which Japanese foreign policy revolves. In combination with Article 9 of the 1946 Constitution and the U.S.-Japan Peace Treaty, the Mutual Security Treaty keeps Japanese politico-military thinking firmly fixed in a track laid down by the United States. From the beginning of the relationship, the United States has defined both the nature of Japan’s defense problem, and the missions of the military forces created to deal with it. The result is a Japanese defense posture inextricably linked to U.S. foreign policy and subject to all of its twists and turns.

The train of events that began with the Nixon trip to Peking in 1972 and ended with the U.S.-China Treaty of 1978 drastically reoriented U.S. foreign policy towards East Asia and with it U.S. defense strategy. At one stroke China became a friend and potential ally of both the United States and Japan instead of at best a hostile neutral. Japan has been the primary beneficiary of the termination of three decades of estrangement and hostility between China and the United States. In August of 1979 Japan and China signed a Peace and Friendship Treaty with an “anti-hegemony” clause. By the end of 1979 Sino-Japanese trade had reached a new high point of more than $7 billion, and the visit of Prime Minister Ohira to Peking initiated a government-to-government loan program.

The Soviet Union is for the moment Japan’s only potential enemy in East Asia. But this has not necessarily redounded exclusively to Japan’s benefit. The rapprochement between the United States and China has left the Soviet Union isolated and outflanked in its Siberian maritime provinces. It has also intensified Soviet resolve to maximize the strategic potential of its Pacific fleet, which now outweighs in tonnage combined U.S. and Japanese naval strength in East Asian waters. This means a much sharper Soviet focus on Hokkaido and the three straits of Tsugaru, La Perouse, and Korea, which control the passage of Soviet naval vessels from their Siberian bases to and from the Pacific. The critical importance of these straits and access routes to the Soviet navy almost certainly accounts for the buildup of Soviet garrisons and air bases in the Kuriles. Japan is the geographical key to the deployment and sustenance of Soviet naval strength in the Pacific.

Under the U. S. -Japan Mutual Security Treaty, the United States in effect assumes responsibility for the defense of Japan in time of war. Since nuclear weapons are expressly excluded from Japan’s military arsenal, the prime deterrent against aggression from the Asian mainland is the American nuclear umbrella and the presence of U.S. aircraft and naval units in the Western Pacific. Japan’s defense posture therefore depends on whether the United States chooses to confront Soviet aggression or incursion in the vicinity of Japan itself or in the surrounding periphery—whether it chooses a forward strategy with preemptive strikes or relies on blockade and a mobile defensive. To some extent these choices will be dictated by the actual deployment of U.S. forces in East Asia at the moment of crisis.

In 1952, as the Korean War was winding down, American forces in the Japanese islands numbered more than 240,000. Today there are only 130,000 American troops in the whole of Asia and about 47,000 in Japan. Yokosuka harbor used to be an important facility for fueling and repairing U.S. naval task forces operating in East Asian waters. Today only one U.S. aircraft carrier task force remains in the Western Pacific, and the constant stream of U.S. naval vessels in and out of Japanese ports has been cut to a trickle. From time to time U.S. naval units participate in small-scale exercises with Japanese units, and the two naval staffs consult with each other; but there are no common contingency plans and nothing comparable to the NATO military communications system or intelligence clearing-house. Present U.S. contingency planning does not envisage in any circumstances the massive reintroduction of American land forces and equipment into Japan proper or major deployment of U.S. air and naval forces within the island chain.

On the surface, the transformation of China from sullen adversary to friend and potential ally has effected no substantial change in the U.S. defense relationship with Japan: under the Mutual Security Treaty the U.S. commitment remains undisturbed.

Nevertheless, the continuing turmoil in the Middle East and the mounting threat to the West’s energy lifeline have drastically altered American strategic priorities. One consequence has been the transfer to the Indian Ocean of more than 50 percent of U.S. naval strength in East Asian waters, including the second carrier task force. Another has been stepped-up demands from Washington that Japan assume a larger share of its defense burden. As early as 1975, Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger publicly stigmatized Japan as a passive defense partner; since then there has been constant pressure on Japan to upgrade its defense armament and increase its contribution to the costs of American personnel stationed in Japan. Japan is now planning to expend $4.5 billion for 77 F-15 fighter-bombers and 37 P-3C air-to-ship missile carrying patrol planes, as well as to raise its armored strength from 840 tanks to 1140 and to purchase or build 16 additional destroyers and five more submarines. But at no time have Japanese or U.S. planners squarely confronted the circumstances under which these forces could be used.

The Pentagon’s best-kept secret is that except in its role as global trip-wire, Japan is militarily indefensible. The only threat to Japan today is from the Soviet Union, and against this adversary Japan is totally vulnerable. To generate debate about modest increases in Japanese force levels or even to propose a doubling of naval or air strength is to postulate scenarios of conventional warfare that defy credibility. There is no conceivable reason why the Soviet Union would ever engage in the folly of launching an amphibious assault on the Japanese islands on such a limited scale that Japan’s defense forces—equivalent on land to a single armored division, a single airborne brigade and a single helicopter brigade— would be adequate to repel it. The only rational purpose for a Soviet attack on Japan would be to forestall its use as an offensive base or to counter a closure of Soviet maritime access routes to the Pacific. Against these threats the Soviet Union has far more potent weapons to deploy.

At a non-nuclear level Japan is vulnerable to naval interdiction of its energy supplies; at a nuclear level to instant and total destruction of its cities by missiles tipped with hydrogen warheads launched from Siberia. No conventional build-up can protect Japan from this kind of blackmail. Japan’s ferocious rate of energy consumption—2 billion barrels of oil a year with 89 percent dependence on foreign sources—could not be interrupted without devastating political effects even if the economy were cushioned for a brief period by conservation and reserves. In the face of nuclear attack, the concentration of Japan’s cities and its limited indigenous food supply would leave virtually no room for survival, let alone effective functioning.

Soviet military doctrine barely differentiates between conventional war and nuclear and envisions a rapid escalation of hostilities in any conflict against major adversaries. From the Soviet viewpoint, Japan is a crucial geographic counter in its Pacific strategy against the United States—too important to be relegated to a slow-motion, conventional warfare build-up with inadequate forces.

Japan’s private perception of its national security situation is quite different from the public statements of its officials, which tend to reflect the stereotyped and wholly unrealistic limited warfare scenarios postulated by U.S. officials. Japan correctly perceives that in any deterioration of the political climate, let alone an outbreak of hostilities in East Asia or along the oil lifeline, its strategic options and ability to exercise influence will diminish to the vanishing point. Moreover, an aggressive Japanese rearmament program would raise the spectre of Japanese militarism throughout Asia. Japan’s political and economic viability therefore depends on avoiding exposure to the consequences of confrontations between the superpowers. As a corollary, Japan’s value as an ally rises and falls in relation to the state of world peace and tranquillity.

It is not owing to moral weakness or political naïveté that Japan projects a lower perception of the Soviet military threat in East Asia than the United States, despite its closer proximity and a steadily increasing Soviet military presence on Etorofu and the other Kurile islands seized from Japan in 1945. It is rather owing to the well-masked realism of the Japanese leadership, sensitive on the one hand of the need to cater to the self-centered strategic conceptions of its protector and on the other gloomily aware that nuclear war would be the end of Japanese civilization. They know that nothing short of its own nuclear force de frappe—and in view of the distance and dispersal of Soviet targets, not even that—can really protect Japan from debilitating blockade or nuclear destruction.

The contrast between this sense of vulnerability and the artificiality of the limited warfare scenarios postulated by the United States, with their wholly hypothetical stages of graduated escalation, is what lends such an air of unreality to U.S.-Japanese defense dialogue. This is accentuated by Japanese reluctance to offend a superior and benefactor and U. S. reluctance to tread on Japanese toes by trying to flush out suppressed opinions. Japan’s reaction has not been to reject or scoff at the preposterous role envisioned for it in event of war, but to acquiesce—up to a point. It is characteristic for Japanese when confronted by untoward pressure from a friend and ally to retreat into a protective shell—and equally characteristic in the role of an adversary to freeze into immobility until the time is propitious to react violently and without warning.

Japan’s fear of being an expendable pawn is, of course, at variance with the American view of Japan as a dependable ally and unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific. Yet the psychic toll enacted by U.S. diplomatic success in persuading Japan to conform to U.S. policy should not be underestimated. Not only are the courses that Japan has been forced to embark on often contrary to what it would do if allowed to proceed on its own—the Olympic boycott and economic sanctions against Iran in particular—but the pace at which decisions have been forced deeply violates Japan’s traditional process of achieving consensus. Deep down, the Japanese resent the way they have been forced by their dependency and vulnerability to mortgage control over their destiny. The response of the American leadership that events brook no delay and all that it is trying to do is impart a sense of urgency assumes that Japan’s priorities must be the same as its own. Yet by any standard the terms of the so-called alliance have now been stretched out of all proportion to its original intent.

What U. S. policy planners consistently ignore is that the lock-step relationship for which they strive is too rigid and brittle to withstand the stress imposed by incessant pressure along the full spectrum of U.S.-Japanese relations. Unless the United States stops trying to drag Japan into quarrels unrelated to the alliance, not to mention distorting Japan’s economic policies to suit the convenience of its partners, sooner or later the bonds will snap.

In its present mode, Japanese foreign policy has been deprived of all flexibility. Japan would dearly love to play an occasional Chinese or Saudi or even Soviet card of its own—perhaps even to negotiate the long-resisted peace treaty with the Soviet Union. But this is a practical impossibility as long as the strategic principles which shape Japanese national security policy are fixed by unilateral U.S. interpretation of Japan’s obligations under the nuclear umbrella and Mutual Security Treaty. Meanwhile incessant badgering on matters like the Olympic boycott and oil purchases from Iran, aggravated by abrupt increases in tariffs on Japanese imports, are guaranteed to stoke the furnaces of resentment and wounded pride. There are already rumblings from the political right calling for a new constitution to replace the one imposed by the U.S. occupation.

The United States urgently needs to revise its policy to Japan. Japan may be the West’s anchor in Asia but not in the conventional military sense. Its value as an ally, in fact, varies in inverse proportion to its involvement in political power struggles. The Reagan administration should make reestablishment of U.S.-Japanese relations on a more flexible and arms-length basis a first priority. In the economic field we ought to replace the present policy of constantly trying to force agreement under the hypocritical guise of “trilateral” cooperation with a more pragmatic and detached bargaining approach, on the one hand dropping saccharine professions of eternal friendship coupled with unctuous exhortation; on the other, meeting restriction with restriction and concession with concession. Japan should be given the latitude to define its own economic interests as it sees fit—and to live with the consequences.

From a national security standpoint the emphasis should be to maximize Japan’s economic strength and de-emphasize its military role. The language of the Mutual Security Treaty should be tightened up to free Japan from any implied requirement to support the United States in situations unrelated to Japanese interests. We should deliberately insulate Japan from Cold-War confrontations in other regions. Japan should be encouraged to keep its military forces in a high state of readiness and equipped with the latest weapons and electronic gear for credible contingencies but not to delude itself into thinking that a vast re-armament program can ever bring it total security. We should, however, encourage Japan to make a greater contribution to the common defense effort by furnishing naval vessels, aircraft, and electronic-advanced types of equipment to U.S. and allied forces in reverse lend-lease type arrangements.

Above all, Japan should be given leeway to pursue its destiny in Asia in its own way, short of military adventurism. The present dependency should be replaced by a partnership of equals.


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