(Asahi: April 28, 2015 – p. 1)
The latest revisions to the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines signify effective changes to the Japan-U.S. security treaty. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter calls them “a way to overhaul the Japan-U.S. alliance.”
Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. security treaty states that the U.S. is obliged to protect Japan. Meanwhile, Article 6 stipulates that Japan is responsible for providing bases to the U.S. military to contribute to “peace and security in the Far East region.”
The original defense cooperation guidelines were drawn up in 1978 with an eye on “contingencies in Japan.” The revised version, which was implemented in 1997, envisaged emergencies on the Korean Peninsula. In either case, the Japanese government explained that the scope of defense cooperation did not go beyond the “Far East.”
In the past, the government defined the Far East as “being located north of the Philippines and covering Japan and the surrounding area.” But the latest guidelines remove these geographical restrictions, calling for global defense cooperation “in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.” This transcends the mechanism of the security treaty.
The new guidelines broaden the scope of cooperation in line with a cabinet decision made last summer to allow the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense. But security legislation, which should serve as a basis for collective self-defense, has yet to be deliberated in the Diet.
It has long been said that the security treaty sets forth the roles of the SDF and the U.S. military as a “shield” for defense and a “spear” for offense, respectively. If Japan takes on the role of “spear” to exercise the right to collective self-defense, this will also change the landscape of the Japan-U.S. security treaty.
To quickly respond to the rise of China, Prime Minister Abe may want to avoid going through time-consuming procedures to revise the security treaty or Diet deliberation. But this is a serious issue that concerns public safety. He is responsible for personally explaining to the public what future vision he has in mind with respect to the Japan-U.S. alliance.