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Retaining The Japanese/American Security Alliance

Retaining The Japanese/American Security Alliance


CSC 1992


SUBJECT AREA National Security







Title: Retaining the Japanese/American Security Alliance:


Author: Lieutenant Commander T.W. Roberts, US Navy


Thesis: For over forty years the United States has had a strong

military presence in Japan to promote US vital interests and to

ensure regional stability and security, but in view of current

Japanese and US economic and political changes, American

military presence in Japan is under great scrutiny and will

either be reduced, reorganized or cease to exist.


Background: The United States is under increasing political

pressure to remove all Japan based military forces in order to

save money and focus on domestic issues. In opposition, are

those who see a broader perspective, where forward basing in

Japan is just a part of a very complex economic, political and

security relationship which is critical and mutually beneficial

to both the United States and Japan. Japan gains monetarily,

politically and regionally from the alliance. The US is able

to obtain strategic, political and economic advantages. Before

any drastic alliance changes are made, both countries' policy

makers must have a real appreciation of the history, domestic

concerns, regional implications and security issues faced by

the US and Japan.


Recommendation: In light of "the new world era," changes and

restructuring of the US - Japanese security relationship can

and should be made, resulting in a trim tailored US force

remaining in Japan. But all proposals to retain US forces in

Japan will fail unless Japan and the US publicize and promote,

on their respective home fronts, this mutually beneficial

alliance, which is no longer based on a post-conquest

relationship, but a complementary alliance founded on an

equitable sharing of military cost burdens and








Thesis: For over forty years the United States has had a

strong military presence in Japan to promote US vital

interests and to ensure regional stability and security, but

in view of current Japanese and US economic and political

changes, American military presence in Japan is under great

scrutiny and will either be reduced, reorganized or cease to exist.


I. Opposing American positions

A. Neo-isolationist

B. Neo-internationalist


II. Japanese perspective

A. History

B. JSDF structure and role

C. Political limitations


III. American perspective

A. Strategic advantages

B. Political benefits


IV. Solutions

A. Force restructuring

B. Japanese advantages

C. Mutual action





Since the end of World War II, the US military has had a


permanent presence in Japan, first as an occupation and


democratization force, then as a protector, and now as an


ally. But "a new world order" is being established from the


ashes of the Cold War and the United States is debating its


future policy objectives in both Asia and Europe. Within this


context, should US military forces remain in Japan? And if so


how will they be structured and what role will they play in the




During the last half of this century, Japan and the United


States have forged an alliance to ensure that Japan was and is


well-defended, while not presenting a threatening appearance to


its Asian neighbors. Initially, the United States military


forces alone protected Japan's security interests. In time the


Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) became a capable and viable


defensive military establishment, with US forces in Japan


focused on offensive operations and American power projection


issues. But now, in view of the enormous American trade


inbalance with Japan, an manageable domestic budget deficit,


and a splintered Soviet/Russian threat, the US military role in


Japan is being called into question by the American people.


In reaction to current East West events, two major


opposing US foreign policy platforms are being discussed and


promoted as military budgets are slashed and new military


strategies formed. First, we are seeing a return to US


traditional foreign policy roots by "neo-isolationists," who


are primarily concerned with the myriad of American domestic


problems from the drug war, to the stagnant economy, to the


downward trend in education. It is this faction's contention


that the US has been the world and specifically the Far East


arbitrator and "problem solver" for long enough and simply does


not have the economic resources nor the political motivation to


continue daily direct involvement in Asian security.


Gone are the times when Japan was an exclusively American


fiefdom ruled by a benevolent proconsul, General Douglas


MacArthur, bent on saving Japan from Communism. In fact, as a


result of the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement between the


United States of America and Japan of 1954, "Japan. . .has been


able to concentrate on economic development while enjoying the


advantages of United States political, diplomatic and military


support." (9: 149)


It is therefore time that American military men and women


deployed to Japan be brought home. After all, the Japanese are


out producing the US economically in many areas and our trade


deficit with them remains over 40 billion dollars a year. In


short, Japan can defend itself against a "reduced threat" and


US defense money saved can be used to offset the ever growing


US debt.


In opposition, is the "neo-internationalists"' position.


"Neo" because of the recent drastic changes in the world, but


"internationalist" because this group still sees the US playing


a modified but critical role in promoting US interests,


stability, and security concerns in selected areas in Asia. As


noted by ADM Crowe, "the United States is viewed in Asia as the


only nation that can be the key balancing or stabilizing force


in the region." (4: 124) Unless the United States is willing


to retreat to its pre-World War II economic, political and


military status, Americans must remain involved in


international issues, problems and crises.


In spite of US growing domestic deficits and overseas


trade imbalances, Americans still enjoy one of the highest


standards of living in the world, resulting primarily from a


strong and varied economy; a capable, worldwide military


presence; and an influential political element. If Americans


wish to retain this comfortable life-style, then the US must


not become focused solely on domestic issues at the expense of


international relationships, investments and obligations.


Unlike the past, today all issues, geopolitical, economic and


military, are interrelated and interdependent. Our geography


no longer "isolates" nor insulates the United States.


While much has changed in Eastern Europe, changes in the


Far East have been less dramatic, with many areas of concern


remaining. "Traditional rivalries among the nations of the


region may have been muted, but they have not disappeared."


(4: 124) Russian relations with China, Japan, North Korea and


South Korea are in limbo until its domestic and government


issues are resolved. North and South Korea remain volcanic


hotspots. China is a huge military and potential economic


power that continues to send mixed political signals. The


Philippines' instability and alienation from the US continues


amongst national disasters. While relations between two


countries are never problem free, since World War II Japan has


remained ironically the strong point for the United States in




And there are innumerable reasons why Americans should


remain interested and involved in the Western Pacific:


US economy - almost 33% of US trade exports and 40% of US


imports go to and come from Asia, outpacing US trade with




Regional stability - US acts as a check and balance ". . .


in the area of the world's fastest economic growth,


(where) defence spending is about to take off."


(1: 35)


US vital interests - the Pacific and Indian Ocean remain


the gateways to the Persian Gulf, through which 17% of the


world's oil passes. (3: 40)


Strategic significance - "US bases in Japan are critical


to providing strategic depth for the defense of South


Korea and for conducting US (military operations)


throughout the Pacific." (3: 38) Without this forward


basing, ". . .the US would not be a 'super-power' in terms


of war fighting capability in Korea or Southeast Asia


unless it had six months to a year of unchallenged


buildup time in a friendly state." (3: 37)


Even though the above "internationalist" arguments are quite


convincing, the pull of focusing on domestic issues alone is


very strong when so many critical problems exist. Many


Americans are simply not familiar with the complicated history


and ever changing dynamics of the US - Japan military alliance.


Since the end of World War II, the


US - Japan security relationship has endured as the dominant

factor in Japanese defense policy. Under this arrangement,

Japan provides forces for its immediate defense and permits the

United States to maintain troops in Japan to provide for

regional security." (5: vii)



Initially Japan totally depended on the United States to


finance, execute and protect Japan's security interests. As


part of the security package in 1951, the original Treaty of


Peace and Security was signed by the United States and Japan,


which granted the United States "the right to station troops in


Japan." (10: 7)


Today's Japanese military and security arrangements are


the direct consequence of the military excesses of World War


II, which have left an indelible mark on Japan's political


process and structure. "Japan is prohibited by the Peace


Constitution from maintaining armed forces and from dispatching


Japanese overseas." (5: vii) The way in which Japan has been


able to get around this constitutional prohibition, is to


establish the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF). The creation


of this military force, originally the National Police Reserve


(NPR), was encouraged by the United States at the onset of the


Korean War in 1950 when American troops stationed in Japan were


being sent to the war front. Since that time, JSDF has grown


into a capable tri-service military, focused on a defensive


warfare strategy, with US military forces stationed in Japan


assuming the offensive missions central to Japan's security.


In addition, under Japan's Constitution strict civilian


control is maintained over every aspect of the Japanese


military. Because of the extreme and horrifying results of


military control over government in World War II, Senior


military officers are not involved in any way in the government


policy making process, either as a cabinet or security council


(National Defense Council) member. The senior military


officer, the Chairman of the Joint Staff Council (JSC), can not


report directly to the Prime Minister or Emperor. Nor can a


military representative testify before the Diet or speak before


the political policy committees. All the restraints discussed


above have hampered the JSDF and in various ways and have


limited its capability. "However, the most important


ramification of the postwar alteration of the Japanese


political structure is the lack of military influences over


policy." (5: 14)


As a result of the countless restrictions, it has been


extremely difficult for the Japanese government to expand or


alter its military and its security alliances in any way. In


fact, "Japan is prohibited by the Peace Constitution from


maintaining offensive armed forces and from dispatching


Japanese overseas." (5: vii) The Japanese people are


understandably reticent to change this policy, based on their


World War II nightmare. So Japan has been able to gain great


political and practical advantage from having American military


forces stationed in country.


Military burden or cost sharing between the United States


and Japan has also been complicated. Each new agreement


through the years has stipulated which country will pay for


what. Each time Japan has been given a greater role in cost


sharing. As the Japanese monetary role grows, political costs


rise as well. With each reiteration, the issue of Japan's


military budget growth becomes more politically sensitive and


difficult to promote in Japan, partially as a result of the


lack of military interaction with policy makers.


Originally, in the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement of




it was stipulated that the United States of America . . . would

maintain certain of its armed forces in and about Japan as a

provisional arrangement in the expectation that Japan will

itself increasingly assume responsibility for its own defense

against direct and indirect aggression . . .contribute(ing) only

to the extent permitted by its general economic condition and

capacities. (8: 662)



Certainly Japan's economic condition has changed drastically


since that time. As a result, for many years, Japan has made a


large investment in its own Self Defense Forces and has made


significant contributions in support of US military bases in


Japan. In fact, "Tokyo's military budget is already, in


absolute financial terms, the third largest in the world."


(4: 135)


The Japan - US alliance is not a trouble free one for the


Japanese government. Even though US military bases in Japan


are generally supported and accepted by the Japanese government


and people, there are pockets of "antimilitary radicals and


local residents concerned about anti-imperialism, public safety


and environmental issues." (5: 18) Many of these radical


groups feel that the Japanese government should disband any and


all of its own military forces and should compel all American


forces to leave. These Japanese groups bring their issues into


the public arena on a regular basis through demonstrations,


base incursions and even terrorist style violence. Obviously,


the US - Japan alliance from the Japanese perspective is


worthwhile, but it is not easy to foster and maintain.


But how can the continued basing of forces to Japan


contribute to the United States military strategies of the


future? First is time. As we have seen with the Persian Gulf


crisis, naval ships can arrive 2-3 weeks earlier in the Middle


East than forces stationed on the East or West coast of the US


In a crisis, every day can make a difference. The primary


military reason for deploying forces forward is to reduce the


time required to respond to enemy actions.


Second is environment. Nothing can duplicate training,


operating and maintaining in the ocean, climate and airspace in


which we may fight. Having forces in place should increase


their readiness for employment and facilitate their training in


a realistic environment. Further, the availability of in-place


maintenance facilities and logistics depots can be of


inestimable value. Third is regular interoperability with


American Allies in the Far East. Wars of the future will be


fought primarily by coalitions as was seen in World War II,


Korea and the Persian Gulf.


In order to be prepared to wage war as a team, countries


must practice and train as one, developing common means of


communication, sharing intelligence and conducting


complementary operations. Policy makers must also remember


that "With respect to basing arrangements in particular, it is


only realistic to recognize that what America takes out, it


will not be able to put back, except possibly in times of


crisis." (4: 131)


From the US perspective, to turn back in time to the


foreign policy flavor of the 1920's and 1930's would be to


repeat the same mistakes America Firsters' made at that time,


only worse. Today's world is less forgiving and the economic


and political stakes are higher. While it is tempting to


concentrate on the US economy at the expense of a working


military cooperation with Japan, chances are the economic


issues are part and parcel of a strong military alliance.


In light of all this, it is obvious that the health of the

relationship between Japan and America depends primarily

on the successful management of economic competition and

on finding a formula for burden sharing in security

matters that has the support of both the Japanese and the

American people." (9: 150)



"Neo-isolationists" must broaden their perspective and see


the interdependence which exists between the US and Japan. US


withdrawal from Japan is a short term defense budget cut, but a


long term loss across the board. US military forces should


remain in Japan as a part of an overall American political,


economic and military strategy for its future security and


success. However, change's, reductions and restructuring will


have to be made in the American forward basing posture in Japan


due to US economic realities. "A restructured but assured


presence in Asia and the Pacific, undergirded by a stronger


financial and economic base, will serve everyone well for many


years to come." (4: 140)


But before any reductions are made, it is critical that


the US government keep in mind that,


Only six percent of US forces are forward deployed in

the Asian-Pacific theater, and only 16 percent are

"dedicated" to the region. Given the space they are

responsible for, they should not be proportionately

reduced along with other cuts around the world. Indeed,

with the political evolution in Europe, there is no need

for such proportionality. (4: 131)



While some limited US military reductions and


consolidations can be done, current US force structure is not




From a naval standpoint, the retention of a permanently

deployed CVBG is paramount. Vokosuka, with its developed

facilities and location next to the Commander-in-Chief

JSDF Fleet remains an ideal homeport. U.S. amphibious

forces located in Okinawa positions them forward to

better respond to breaking crises throughout South Asia.

Deployment of U.S. VP aircraft to bases in Japan fosters

close interaction between the services and should

continue. US squadrons (could) be co-located with

counterpart JMSDF squadrons to enhance interoperability

and facilitate joint operations. (19: 2)



Whatever choices are made, restructuring of US forces should be


measured against mutual benefits and costs and not carried out


by blindly slashing of programs and bases which have taken


decades to build and cannot be replaced. As the US system


would have it, the force reduction or withdrawal decisions will


be made by policy makers or budgeteers unfamiliar with the


Japanese - American security goals. Already substantial force


reductions are haphazardly taking place, with no overall design


in mind for future capabilities or contingencies.


Throughout the reduction and restructuring process, both


nations must remember that the US and Japanese security


alliance is a mutually beneficial relationship. For the United


States, forward basing in Japan means that American forces can


operate and train in vital areas of interest throughout the


Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and even the Persian Gulf. In


addition, the United States can monitor military activity and


be ready to provide support to Americans in such areas as South


Korea, Peoples Republic of China, Philippines and Sri Lanka.


The U.S. is also interested in maintaining stability in


NorthWest Asia, which would feel threatened by an offensively


armed and unchecked Japan. With current cost sharing




It is actually cheaper to homeport a US Naval Battle

Group in Japan than it is in the U.S. With the closure of

U.S. bases in the Philippines, it provides shipyard

services and a forward staging area for our forces. It

promotes interaction on all aspects of military from

procedures to hardware procurement. This gains

importance as U.S. defense expenditures decrease, forces

are reduced and more reliance is placed on our allies.

It assists the U.S. in exercising influence on Japanese

foreign policy. It symbolizes the continuing close

relationship between the two countries and seems to

weather strained relations in other areas. (19: 3)



Japan benefits from the US military presence in several


ways. Monetarily, Japan apportions only one percent of its GNP


to defense, as opposed to the United States' seven percent. As


a direct result of US forces stationed in Japan, huge cost


savings are realized by the Japanese people who can then


maintain a significantly reduced standing military. The


American military presence is a force multiplier with fewer


political costs and sensitivities than a strong and independent


Japanese military.


There are also political advantages for the Japanese


government, who can maintain a lower domestic defense budget


and regional military profile while retaining substantial


advantages under the American nuclear umbrella. The fact is


". . .no nation in Asia will welcome Japanese forces of any kind


unless it is clear that a US-Japanese partnership ensures that


Japan will not dominate the region." (3: 38) "US-Japan


security ties add credibility, particularly in the eyes of


Asian countries, to Japan's policy of not becoming a big


military power." (12: 33)


Critical to any progress is that both countries realize


and focus on the long-term advantages of their alliance, as


opposed to the short-term domestic political boost that would


result from the dissolution of their security relationship.


Only then can Japan and the United States continue to dedicate


their respective militaries to the integration and


interoperability of their forces across the spectrum.


Interoperability programs have been successfully


established in several areas to include, Air Defense, Submarine


and Anti-submarine Warfare and Combat Air Patrol. Many formal


and informal information exchange programs have been


established where both sides share methodologies, technologies


and tactics. But these interoperability programs and


information exchange's must be broadened to include every aspect


of their combined operational forces. Such interoperability


will act as a force multiplier to both Japan and the United


States, allowing each to protect its respective vital interests


at a lower political, economic and military cost.


Actually, the monetary costs to the US drop daily. No


longer does the US bear the brunt of the military burden.


Since January 14, 1991, when Japan and the United States


signed the new host nation support agreement, Japan assumed


100% of all Japanese utility and labor costs incurred by

US forces in Japan. Under the new agreement, Japan's

burden-sharing expenditures will rise to around $4.7

billion. This will be about 73% of all costs for keeping

US forces in Japan, and will make it much cheaper to keep

US forces in Japan than to bring them home. (3: 38)



As long as Japan continues to assume a majority of the


financial burden, the United States can afford to retain select


forward deployed forces in Japan. The United States will


continue to pay for the military hardware, maintenance and


personnel costs, which are expenses the US would incur whether


the forces are stationed stateside or overseas.


A tailored, but strong US military presence in Japan does


not only affect the US and Japan, it greatly influences the


Asian region as a whole. Need we forget that most ASEAN


leaders want the US to remain a central security minder for the


region and are wary of jettisoning existing military


co-operation ties. (11: 15) In addition,


Japan's history of conquest and brutal rule in Northeast

Asia has left an indelible mark on both China and Korea:

that of mistrust. China's fanatic and undying Communist

ideology and political structure has looming negative

implications. And South Korea's continued separation

from and tension with North Korea dictates an uncertain

future. (2: 31)



This region is also seething with military might.


Excluding the US and Russia, ". . .of the world's eight largest


military powers, five are in the Asia Pacific area - China,


North and South Korea, Japan and India." (15: 31) And few


nations in the Orient feel secure in the post Cold War era,


instead the new climate is filled with political, economic and


security unknowns. As a result, ". . .members of ASEAN show


defense budget increases during the past three years ranging


from 8% in Malaysia to perhaps 40% in Singapore. (16: 30)


While some are apprehensive of US involvement, most countries


in the region see a continued US military presence as the key


element which can prevent a dangerous turn in the current arms


race amongst Asian nations. (12: 33)


And a stable thriving Orient not only benefits that


region, it is greatly advantageous to the US economy as well.


To be sure, there are vital domestic concerns that must be

addressed to make the US competitive in (the

international) marketplace. However, to achieve the

necessary growth in our economy means expansion of our

share of international trade (export's vice imports), a

goal that will not be met without a combination of

military presence to ensure regional stability and

vigorous diplomacy to open those markets to US industry.

(14: 7-8)



But all of these proposals are merely stardust unless


Japan and the US publicize and promote, on their respective


home fronts, this mutually beneficial alliance, which is no


longer based on a post-conquest relationship, but a


complementary alliance founded on an equitable sharing of


military cost burdens and responsibilities. Unfortunately,


political motives and domestic concerns on each side jeopardize


the alliance. Perhaps if the monetary, military and political


realities were made public - the public would support the


continuance of this security relationship and retain in office


the politicians who are working to preserve it.





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Rise." Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter September 1991.


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Asia. Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press

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3. Cordesman, Anthony, H. "America's Options in Asia:

Partnership or Retreat." Armed Forces Journal International

February 1992.


4. Crowe, William, J. Jr. and Romberg, Alan D. "Rethinking

Pacific Security." Foreign Affairs Spring 1991.


5. "Evolution of the Japanese Military System." Defense

Intelligence Report. DDB-2680-91-80 May 1980.


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Affairs America and the World 1990/91.


7. Manegold, Catherine, S. "The Military Question: Is it Time

for Japan to Have a bigger Army?." Newsweek November 25, 1991.


8. "Mutual Defense Assistance Aggreement Between the United

States of America and Japan." U.S. Treaties and Other International

Agreements TIAS 2957 Mar. 8, 1954.


9. Nacht, Michael. "The United States and Japan: Building a

New Relationship." Current History April, 1991.


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of Defense." National Security Affairs Monograph Series 83-7 1983.


11. Richardson, Michael. "US Plans for Pacific Partnership."

Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter June 1991.


12. Richardson, Michael. "Regional Security: Mixed Views on

Pax Americana." Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter September 1991.


13. Robinson, Gwen. "Regional Security: Japan Paves the Way

for Broader Role." Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter September 1991


14. "Structuring U.S. Naval Forces in the 'New' World Order."

The Center for International Affairs Harvard University January 1992.


15. Warner, Denis. "Regional Security: The First Step." Asia-

Pacific Defence Reporter September 1991.


16. Young, P. Lewis. "Southeast Asian Nations See No Sign of

'Peace Dividend'." Armed Forces Journal International February 1992.



Written Interviews February 1992:


17. Commander/JMSDF - Inoue, Yoshinori. Intelligence Officer

for Airwing and Subron.


18. Captain/US Navy - Intelligence Officer CINCPACFLT.


19. Captain/US Navy - Commanding Officer Pacific Region Intel-

igence Center.


20. Captain/US Navy - Intelligence Officer CINCPACFLT.


21. Captain/US Navy - Former Commodore of U.S. Naval Airwing

in Japan.


22. Captain/US Navy - Former Commodore of U.S. Naval Airwing

in Japan.


23. Captain/US Navy - Former Intelligence Officer for



24. Colonel/US Marine Corps - Former USMC 4th Marines

Regimental Commander and G-3 for III MEF, Okinawa, Japan.


25. Colonel/US Marine Corps - Commanding Officer MWSS

Okinawa, Japan.


26. Colonel/US Marine Corps - Chief of Staff/ Operations Officer

4th MEB.


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