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Article inserted into the Congressional Record by Representative Frank of Massachusetts.
From the New York Times, 14 February 1997

Japan Hesitant About U.S. Antimissile Project


Washington, Feb. 14--After three years of exploratory talks, Administration officials say Japan has all but decided against taking part in an antimissile defense project with the United States for fear of offending China and overspending scarce military resources.

Tokyo's hesitation stems from reluctance to spend billions of dollars when its own economy is weak, and concerns that developing a missile system would anger Japan's deeply pacifist electorate and frighten Asian neighbors wary of any signs of a Japanese military buildup.

A decision not to join the project would be a setback to American military contractors that hope to supply Japan with hardware. And it could swell United States military budgets for Asia because the United States would have to bear the cost of such a system alone.

Senior Administration officials said that no Japanese decision would be announced for months and that the United States would press ahead with its own plans to develop antimissile systems to protect American forces in Japan from any North Korean or Chinese attack.

The feasibility of an effective antimissile shield is still a matter of debate, but Pentagon officials say the Patriot missiles , which displayed a mixed record during the Persian Gulf war, have been updated and improved in recent years.

Administration officials also say a decision by Tokyo not to take part would not hurt its relations with Washington.

Discussions on how to pool technology, engineering talent and money to set up a `theater missile defense ' began shortly after North Korea test-fired a Rodong 1 missile 300 miles into the Sea of Japan in 1993. A middle-level working group of Japanese and American defense planners has met nine times to discuss regional threats, deployment timetables and various types of land- and sea-based antiballistic weaponry.

Japan has been wary of the project ever since the Clinton Administration first broached the idea in October 1993. But American hopes were raised after Japan allocated $2.7 million in its 1996 budget to study building an antimissile system, 20 times what Tokyo spent the year before on the project. American officials were also encouraged when President Clinton and Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto met in Tokyo last April and promised to broaden their military alliance.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said the group would continue meeting until the summer, after which time Tokyo would decide what role to play. `At this moment, we have not made any decision and we cannot predict or prejudge any result or conclusion,' he said.

But after a meeting in Tokyo last weekend, senior American officials have concluded that Japan is simply not ready to pursue a project that could cost them as much as $10 billion a year--more than one-fourth of Japan's current $35 billion military budget--for four or five years. They said the project has a few powerful supporters in Japan's military establishment, but is opposed by many in the Foreign Ministry and by most of the nation's top economic officials.

`Japan is financially constrained, and they don't have the strategic consensus,' said a senior Pentagon official involved in making Japan policy. `Japan is most nervous about China, even through they talk about North Korea. A decision to build this would be perceived by the Chinese to be a blatant act. So I'm sure Japan will not go down this line.'

Another Administration official, who noted that China has repeatedly warned Japan that it would view deployment of an antimissile system as a hostile act, added, `This is not something that will happen anytime soon.'

The Chinese have argued that a Japanese antimissile program would undermine regional arms-control efforts.

Given the pacifist strain that runs through the Japanese electorate, American officials said, Prime Minister Hashimoto and other members of the political elite cannot be expected to commit themselves to any such program without a thorough debate in Parliament. And there is no sign, they said, that Parliament will take up the issue any time soon.

The Pentagon has proposed at least four antimissile options for deployment by 2004, including enhanced Patriot surface-to-air missiles designed to intercept low-altitude missiles and Thaad antiballistic systems for high-altitude interceptions. American officials have also discussed the possibility of sharing with Japan early-warning data from satellites that are now being developed to detect infrared radiation at the time of a launching.

`Our interest is that we would like to see American troops in Japan protected from ballistic missile attacks,' said Joseph Nye, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense , who is dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. `But Japan is very sensitive to the political repercussions in China and North Korea.'

Many American military experts still say Japan will eventually join the project, but perhaps not for another five years or more.

`These things take time,' said John M. Deutch, the Director of Central Intelligence, who pushed for a joint project when he served as a senior Defense Department official in the early 1990's. `Inevitably, the Japanese Government will see that it needs to be concerned with antimissile defense .'

Despite the setback, Administration officials say they are committed to building or upgrading regional antimissile systems to protect American troops in all potentially hazardous regions, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and South Korea. The Administration's proposed $265 billion military budget for 1998 calls for a 3 percent cut in spending from the 1997 budget, but it adds $320 million for antimissile systems.

`The goal is to develop, procure and deploy systems that can protect forward-deployed U.S. forces, as well as allied and friendly nations, from theater-range ballistic missiles ,' Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen said this week while testifying on the budget before Congress. `These programs are structured to proceed at the fastest pace that technology will allow.'

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Japan has all but decided against taking part in an antimissile defense project with the United States for fear of offending China and overspending scarce military resources.

Needless to say, the scarce military resources they are afraid of overspending are theirs. They are quite willing to spend ours.

As the article points out this `could swell United States military budgets for Asia because the United States would have to bear the cost of such a system alone.'

And where is this system going to go if the Japanese do not want to pay for it? Then we are going to have to pay for it in Japan. This is a system that we are going to install in Japan to protect American soldiers that are in Japan, in part to protect Japan from North Korea or China, but the Japanese do not want to offend North Korea or China; they want us to be over there to offend North Korea and China presumably, and they do not want to spend their money because they have budget problems.

The worst of it is the article then concludes in relevant part: `Administration officials say a decision by Tokyo not to take part would not hurt its relations with Washington.'

Well, I have to say that maybe it does not hurt relations with the administration, but the administration is wrong to say so. The notion that the American taxpayer, and we are going to balance the budget, and we are going to be making cuts in education and environment and housing and health care and very important domestic programs so that we can spend billions of dollars to build an antimissile system in Japan to protect American troops that are in Japan to help Japan, and the Japanese tell us they cannot afford to do it because they do not have enough money; they have got budget problems.

We have got to put an end to the one-sidedness and subsidy of the Japanese nation.

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