(Sheila Smith) Japan-U.S. Expand Defense Alliance

Date: 11-01-2005

HONOLULU (Nov.1) -- Defense and foreign policy makers from the U.S. and Japan revealed the blueprint for the transformation of their alliance. East-West Center Fellow Sheila Smith points out the agreement "would be unrecognizable to the policy makers who drew up the bilateral security treaty more than half a century ago." The Japanese Self-Defense Force and U.S. forces will work more closely than ever, and alliance goals extend from the defense of Japan to a broad menu of global military initiatives.

In the agreement on "Transformation and Realignment for the Future," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld joined their Japanese counterparts, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura and Minister of State for Defense Yoshinori Ohno, in outlining an expansive set of goals for integrating U.S. and Japanese military capabilities.

For the past two years, working level talks have focused on revamping the alliance. In February 2005, at the previous 2+2 meeting, the joint statement presented the principles for the future of the alliance. Issuing for the first time "common strategic objectives" for the U.S.-Japan alliance, the Joint Statement went on to layout two key concepts. The first, the need for developing the requisite capabilities needed to meet these objectives, and the second to realign the two governments' forces to enhance deterrence and defense capabilities in the areas surrounding Japan and to improve the international security environment.

Smith notes, "The October 29th statement built on the goals established by Japan for its own defense restructuring in the National Defense Program Outline issued last December. Regional concerns, such as North Korean activities and the military modernization program of China, shaped Tokyo's thinking about its future security goals." The EWC Japan expert adds, "Key goals for Japan include air and ballistic missile defense, counterterrorism and counter proliferation, and the defense of Japan's coastal perimeter, including offshore islands. "Moreover," Smith continues, "Japan's increasing willingness to take on what it calls international security efforts, such as the deployment of GSDF (Ground Self-Defense Force) units to Iraq, has also influenced the future development goals for the SDF (Self-Defense Force)."

The U.S.-Japan agreement also reflects new priorities in Washington. Joint operations among air, naval and ground forces are now a priority, as rapid and flexible response capabilities are central to U.S. military thinking. Smith says "Rather than planning for fixed contingencies, such as the defense of an ally, the U.S. Department of Defense would like to retain flexibility over the deployment of its military, and access to facilities and bases around the globe. Japan has embraced these priorities for its own military, and so the alliance now places a premium on joint operations and the interoperability of the SDF and U.S. forces in the region." It emphasizes training and exercises designed to increase the ability of the Japanese and American militaries to fight together, with "common situational awareness."

"Despite all of the changes," Smith adds, "the 2+2 statement very clearly reiterated the basic premise of the alliance of the last half century." U.S. strike capabilities and the nuclear deterrence provided by the United States will remain an essential complement to Japan's defense capability.

In a separate agreement, the U.S. announced it would for the first time homeport a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Japan. Some observers point out this may not go down well with Japan's numerous anti-nuclear proponents. The agreement also stated that the air and naval forces deployed in and around Japan would remain. Moreover, the introduction of a new U.S. X-band radar system will begin the process of introducing Japanese capability for missile interception.

The long-awaited details of U.S.-Japan force posture realignment revealed the significance of interoperability in this new bilateral military planning document. Smith notes that "Key operations, such as the overall joint operations coordination and command, the army joint task force command, and air and missile defenses, will now be jointly conducted by SDF and U.S. military units on such bases as Yokota Air Base and Camp Zama. Shared basing for these key command and operational forces is designed to create the opportunities for data sharing as well as for "constant connectivity and coordination." Smith points out the obvious advantage. "The two militaries will, quite literally, be working alongside each other as they transform."

Not All Happy With Transformation

"The biggest impact for Japan" Smith points out, "will be in the reduction and consolidation of U.S. Marine Corps personnel stationed in Okinawa." The impact of the III Marine Expeditionary Force deployment on the island has been a longstanding source of tension between Okinawa and Tokyo. Washington has agreed to reduce the number of Marines on Okinawa by around 7,000. As part of the U.S. global realignment process, the U.S. Marines in Okinawa will move their command and training centers back to Guam. Smith notes, "This will allow the closure of several large facilities in Okinawa, including the Naha Military Port and Makiminato Storage Facility, as well as the consolidation of other facilities into Camp Hansen and other remaining Marine Corps bases."

Washington and Tokyo remain committed, however, to building a new Marine air facility within Okinawa Prefecture. This is likely to meet with significant continued opposition on the island. In 1996, the two governments agreed to close the controversial Futenma Marine Air Base, located in the midst of densely populate Ginowan City in central Okinawa. Intense opposition emerged to the plan to build a new offshore facility in Nago City to the north, and no progress was made on the relocation. "With this in mind," Smith says, "the U.S. and Japan agreed on a downsized relocation plan with a new 1,800 meter runway that will give the Marines a heliport partly on land and partly protruding into the sea off Camp Schwab." In addition to rotary wing aircraft, support facilities and housing for the Marines currently located at Futenma will be constructed on Schwab.

The consolidation of Marine bases on Okinawa will transfer much of the impact of their presence to the northern region of the island. But it will also have an impact across the Pacific. The Marine Corps and its operations will be relocated to U.S. territory, including Guam, Hawai'i and Alaska. The Japanese Government has agreed to help finance the move of Marine training to Guam, introducing a new role for the Japanese Government in support of the U.S. military.

Smith says, "This Security Consultative Committee (SCC) Document will shape Japanese and U.S. alliance planning for decades to come." The first steps need to be taken by March 2006 when a concrete implementation schedule for U.S. force realignment is expected to be completed. Local opposition to the new plan has already begun, especially in Okinawa, where the impact of this transformation will be highest. But, Smith warns the concern may not be limited to Japan's western-most prefecture. "There will also be reverberations around the region, as this new stage of military integration between Japan and the U.S begins."

Sheila Smith may be reached on (808) 944-7427 or at SmithS@EastWestCenter.org

This is an East-West Wire, copyright East-West Center