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A Maturing Alliance Responsive to Asia and the World

Remarks by James A. Kelly

The Mansfield Foundation
November 15, 2005



Perhaps now, as never before, the United States – Japan partnership works best to confront – together - serious problems. That is how we work best – together. So my remarks today will first touch on a changed alliance, one very different from even ten years ago. Without doubt, much of this change in the alliance reflects a Japan that is itself changing in unforeseen ways. And America is different now, especially since 9-11.

In this respect, it is most welcome to be at the U.S. Capitol, in the Mansfield Room celebrating the sort of thing that the late Senator Mansfield stood for in such a special way, Mansfield Fellowships. These special and unique exchanges perpetuate the kinds of hands on effort – a year of language and a year of working within Japan’s government - that marked Senator Mansfield.
During the 1980 years, time of what is now known as the “bubble economy,” Mike Mansfield was in Tokyo explaining to the governments of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan – and he may have been more successful in those explanations to the latter – why this partnership was the world’s most important, “Bar None.”

Japan has had some tough years since, but a recent remarkable election, and, as well, the advent of serious economic recovery, augurs well. Many have decried the five “Ds:” Deflation, Default, Demography, Deregulation and Debt have been seen as hobbling Japan. But progress on most is seen to be in prospect.


A Changing Alliance


Our alliance was not written to be symmetrical or equal, at least in responsibilities. This was not in question over the Cold War Years. There was a kind of simplicity in that bipolar system. The Soviet threat was real, but for Japan it may have usually seemed rather distant. And the threat was indirect in the sense that if the Soviet Union ever did attack, it would be about the Americans.

With the end of the Cold War in the 1990s – and even more so now - the security problem became more complex. Would future “threats” only be economic? As Japan’s “bubble economy” deflated some may have thought so. The new era in America offered a “peace dividend.” U.S. armed forces' personnel, even with delays incident to the Gulf War response to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, were cut by 40%.

Even North Korea, after the important 1991-92 agreements with its South Korean neighbor, including the Joint Declaration on Denuclearization, seemed to signal that it might be part of a new era. American nuclear weapons were removed from Korea. North Korea signed a belated IAEA Safeguards Agreement and offered the IAEA a sweeping inventory of nuclear sites in 1992. But the DPRK soon rejected the routine verifications that followed and a two-year nuclear standoff began. The Agreed Framework of 1994 was the result, but nuclear (and later missile) fears had been generated. One may suggest that the North Koreans, in Northeast Asia at least, kept a much fuller sense of peace from breaking out, and thereby insured that the alliance did not wither in the mid 1990s political uncertainty.

But the U.S. and Japan had been drifting, and the "Nye Initiative," named for then Assistant Secretary Joseph Nye, evolved into a tool for rejuvenating alliance enthusiasm. Ia much more comprehensive way, the 1996 Joint Declaration of President Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto put the Alliance on a renewed basis.

North Korea's surprise three stage ballistic missile test of 1998 gave further evidence that threats could be real, and the Armitage Report of 2000 set an ambitious agenda for the alliance that has stood up very well in the years since in meeting the thrust of events. If further evidence were needed, the Security Coordinating Committee (SCC) statements after the February and October 2005 meetings offer an agenda for ongoing cooperation.

A Changing Japan

Japan is changing, as so many have noted. Much if this, as elsewhere, is generational. Japan has become more nationalistic, too, also as reflected in many other countries. Political change has led to diminished power of the Liberal Democratic Party, which seems to be changing and may be even breaking up in spite of success in the recent election.


The North Korea abduction issue has seized the attention of most Japanese, and yet not all perceive the greater threat of weapons of mass destruction. But it is significant that after 60 years, Japan now has a potential adversary that can be called by name.


Finally, perhaps more than any Asian country, Japan must adjust to deal with the "peaceful rise” of China. Rising is a China of stunning and little interrupted economic growth, a growth tinged with nationalism. And more and more this nationalism, with stimulation of memories of bad times and abuse by foreigners, has borne the politics of resentment and victimization. These are powerful feelings in China, as was seen in the Japan-China soccer football game earlier this year in Beijing, and in the poisonous material on the world wide web that otherwise controlling Chinese internet masters at least permit, if not encourage. China's emphasis on "history," is, in a fashion, a "safe" demand for an historic accountability. Of course, it is one that Chinese leaders will uneasily want to limit to external elements. The task of living with China, and sharing leadership of Asia with China, is a reality that Japan is only beginning to confront. American and Japanese cooperation will help in the China question too, but must be handled with subtlety and care.

Problems to Confront

The proof of our alliance is in the problems we confront and in the recognition that coordination in our responses to issues, and sometimes close and public cooperation, is most likely to bring the results we need.


In the North Korean problem, U.S. and Japanese cooperation has been close and needs to be so. The Six party negotiations - involving all the interested parties - are frustrating, but important. It brings all in Northeast Asia together on an equal footing. It makes North Korea aware of the opportunities that joining the international community will open as well as the costs of continued and perhaps intensified isolation. True, it is quite possible that its leadership sees isolation as an advantage.


But as the Prime Minister and President Bush agreed, and will surely do so later today in Kyoto, "dialogue and pressure" on the nuclear issue, and other DPRK problems, will be their patient policy. By doing so, it becomes much harder for others, even China, to accept a nuclear weapon armed North Korea. This is a prime example in which joint U.S. and Japanese efforts are stronger than either would be individually.


China's "Peaceful Rise" is the issue dominating Asia concerns. I will note the need in all of the China questions the need to carefully balance our joint and individual efforts. With resentment stirring in China, in different ways, toward both Japan and the United States, there is a need for subtlety in how we work together.


International organizations pose another challenge for Japan and the U.S. Concerning the United Nations, there is an obvious mismatch between Japan's 20% contributions and its much lesser influence. This is especially so by comparison with China's Security Council membership and influence juxtaposed with its 1% financial contribution.


Asian architecture of international organizations is a critical contemporary issue. The paucity of Asian multilateral institutions is finally shifting. But some of the new activity smacks of exclusion. Another aspect seems to be about China asserting regional leadership. U.S. interests are clear and do not clash with Japan, or even, necessarily, with China's interests. We seek to strengthen those institutions - especially APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) or the only functioning multilateral security dialogue, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). New fora - such as the ASEAN "Plus Three" and the still undefined East Asian Summit - are sometimes portrayed as new institutions that will enhance China's leadership aspirations, presumably because of American absence. The reality is more complex.


This multilateral activity is neither adverse in essence to American interests, nor is it necessarily a zero-sum game. It is something about which the U.S. and Japan must communicate often and closely. Some experts offer concerns about Japan asserting leadership with America excluded, somehow stimulating more competition with China. But the concern in my view is less that Japanese leadership being asserted than of Japan needing to offer its leadership, especially to the nations of Southeast Asia, who want political balance.


Finally, there are bilateral and U.S. forces issues. These are what former Secretary George Shultz called "tending the garden." Bilateral issues ebb and flow, but always need thoughtful attention. American transformation of its military will pose some of these, especially troop dispositions, both in Okinawa and on the main islands. And there are always economic problems, especially the beef export since the single Oregon case of BSE. This trade is significant, and Americans feel the health protections being observed are strong. Yet the appearance of a snail like clearance process for young cattle unsusceptible to BSE is leading to rising frustration in Washington.


Last, there is the "history issue." This has a high profile with China and Korea, with demands for what seem to be an unending stream of apologies. This understandably offends many Japanese who were unborn 60 years ago. But there is still some differences that bother Americans that should be quietly discussed. Upcoming anniversaries will be part of this, but there is more. Although I have not visited the new Yasukuni Shrine museum, some Americans who have done so have been quite troubled by the version of history proclaimed - even in English - in some displays.



For the past four years, the Administration has maintained a vigorous policy of engagement with East Asia-Pacific, with a leading focus on Japan. The 2000 Armitage Report has been reasonably predictive for Japan and an exceptional relationship – albeit with serious stresses – has evolved. There is a good structure to continue to move forward.


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