Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Take My Security Treaty, Please

The headquarters of I Corps, a U.S. Army command that in the event of land conflict in East Asia would be in charge of the defense of U.S. allies in the region, is being moved from Washington State to Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture. The shift is an indication of a U.S. commitment to its allies. As such it is probably not reversible.

U.S. jet fighters based in Misawa and Kadena and the heavy lift wing of Yokota also probably fulfill vital roles in bolstering the capabilities and credibility of the Japan-U.S. security alliance.

So what was Democratic Party Leader Ozawa Ichirō thinking when he told an audience in Nara Prefecture last night that the only branch of the U.S. armed services that needs to be in Japan is the U.S. Seventh Fleet? Arguing that the revolution in military affairs and force realignment have made the presence of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army (and the U.S. Marines - them too?) unnecessary seems not only wrong, but wrong in a way that makes googoo eyes at the People's Liberation Army.

Perhaps it is an example of Ozawa's thinking about long game, looking ahead to the day when the Chinese government has to select a target upon which the PLA can work out its frustrations. Japan would be able to say, "Not us, we reduced the U.S. presence that you found so threatening. We're the good guys, see?"

Or perhaps he believes that if the U.S. presence is lessened, the Chinese will stop trying to build up their power projection capabilities aimed at Japan.

Who knows?

Because the excuse Ozawa gives -- that getting rid of the non-Navy U.S. forces on the ground and in the air would compel Japan to provide for more of its security needs by itself, making Japan a more equal partner in the alliance -- seems nuts. It is akin to arguing that because swimming is a very valuable skill for individuals to have, we should be tossing babies off of piers.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree with your two intial assumptions:
1) the headquarters move is an irreversible commitment, and
2) what Japan needs is more credible commitment from the US.

The US has a long history of reversing "irreversible" commitments in Asia. Inevitable anti-US base protests will provide a perfect cover for the US to move the headquarters if the government decides to do it.

Assumption #2 demands that a) Japan is facing a threat that it needs the US to defend it from, and b) the US is unlikely to so right now. Admittedly, the US government has used a) and b) for decades to justify why Japan should be more grateful for US protection. Still, I'm sure you're familiar with the evidence that Japanese leaders weren't as sure about that, seeing China as less of a threat than the US did, for example. Your post suggests that the Japanese political leadership (i.e. Ozawa) needs to take the Chinese threat more seriously and secure stronger American commitments to defend Japan in case China attacks. Am I reading you wrong?

But when Abe proposed that whole "Democratic Circle" or whatever it was, didn't you criticize it for being anti-China? Again, I apologize if I mis-remember, but I'm struggling to understand why it's so bad to get defensive commitments from other countries that oppose China but so great to get more US troops in Japan to defend against China.

Do you honestly believe that: a) China is likely to attack Japan, and b) the US would not defend Japan (given the pre-move force structure)?

That doesn't necessarily mean Ozawa was right to say what he did, but I'm just mystified where this post is coming from.

Anonymous said...

Gavan McCormack is arguing-pretty persuasively-that the issue is not the tranfer of the command to Camp Zama. It is the construction plans in Okinawa, and the huge costs which the GoJ has agreed to pay for the transfer in Guam. That was the reason that Clinton was in Japan in the first place, because the US is trying to force through some commitments while it still has the LDP as a negotiating partner.

As for why the US needs to be in Japan in the first place, well, 1)it's a pretty good hedge against regional economic integration and 2) It's a long way from San Diego to Bahrain. Somebody might get bored on the trip.