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5/2/2015

A Deepening US-Japan Alliance: Be Careful What You Wish For | The Diplomat

A Deepening US-Japan Alliance: Be Careful


What You Wish For
A deepening U.S.-Japan alliance might actually hurt Japans
security interests
By Dingding Chen
May 01, 2015

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abes visit to the U.S. has achieved
one main goal for Japan: a deepening of the U.S.-Japan security
alliance. The biggest change is the new joint defense guidelines now
allow Japans military to fight alongside the U.S. military anywhere in
Image Credit: Flickr/ Speaker John Boehner
the world, as long as Japan deems it necessary for Japans national
security interests. On the surface, such a move might strengthen
Japans security, particularly during Chinas rise in Asia. It might also increase the odds of the U.S. coming to aid Japan
militarily since now Japan is ready to help the U.S. anywhere. A closer analysis, however, reveals that a deepening U.S.-Japan
alliance might actually hurt Japans security interests.
To start with, a possible global presence of Japans military will involve Japan in unnecessary conflicts in some dangerous
quarters of the world. The U.S. is a superpower with security interests in every corner of the world, but Japan is not a
superpower and hence does not have security interests globally. Also, in the past 15 years, the U.S. has fought two very costly,
yet unnecessary, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now is probably entering a new war in the Middle East and even Ukraine.
If the United States decides to send ground troops to fight ISIS or help Ukraine fight Russia, how should Japan help? And can
Japan really help? Of course, Japan can provide some logistical assistance, but real military assistance involving Japanese
soldiers would be highly risky. Already, two Japanese citizens were beheaded by ISIS for Japans close relationship with the
U.S. in fighting the ISIS. Japanese involvement in the United States conflicts could lead to greater suffering for Japanese
citizens.
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5/2/2015

A Deepening US-Japan Alliance: Be Careful What You Wish For | The Diplomat

It might be the case that Japan, under the leadership of Abe, wants to use these new guidelines as an opportunity to revise its
constitution and make Japan a normal state again. Japan becoming a normal state is actually a good thing, and other
countries should welcome it. But becoming a military machine that closely follow America s every step or misstep around the
world is not a good thing for Japan. Instead, Japan should aim at an independent foreign policy that centers around its Asian
neighbors instead of the whims of U.S. foreign policy. Only through this approach can Japan and other Asian powers build a
peaceful and prosperous Asian community.
A more serious problem is Japans intended target in Asia. Although unstated, everyone knows that the real target of the U.S.Japan security alliance is China. A new disturbing development is that Japan and the U.S. may start joint maritime patrols in
the South China Sea, with an aim to counterbalance Chinas growing presence there. This is a puzzling move on Japans part.
There is already a high chance of an accidental clash of plans and vessels between China and Japan in the East China Seawhy
risk another clash with China in the South China Sea? Plus, Japan is not part of any South China Sea disputes, so why does
Japan want to be dragged into the already very complex situation? Perhaps the pressures come from the United States, and
perhaps Japan sees a good opportunity in mobilizing smaller Southeast Asian states to balance against China. Whatever the
motivation, Japans move is a highly risky one and it would only lead to higher levels of tensions between Japan and China.
In the realm of international politics, action begets reaction and a new alliance invites a counter-alliance. So we now have a
stronger and firmer U.S.-Japan alliance, what will China do? The most likely case is that China will counteract the U.S.-Japan
alliance with its own alliance with Russia (most likely). Already, because of Americas strategic mistakes in Europe, Russia is
quickly moving closer to China, both economically and politically. It is no longer unthinkable that we might see a China-Russia
alliance in the near future, particularly if the U.S. and Japan increase their pressures on China. If indeed someday that
happens, we might enter a new cold war in Asiareal bad news for everyone.
In the end, the best strategy for Japan is to come to terms with Chinas rise and cooperate with Beijing to build a better
regional order. This certainly does not mean that Japan should cave to China on every issue. There are real differences
between these two giants in Asia, and China is not necessarily right on every issue. It wont be easy, but let us hope wise
minds in Japan will prevail.

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