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Editorial: New Secretary of Defense’s visit may signal new era of Japan-U.S. Security Treaty

  • January 27, 2017
  • , Tokyo Shimbun , p. 5
  • JMH Translation

The visit to Japan by Secretary of Defense James Mattis will be the first one by a top official of the Trump administration, which has requested an increase in Japan’s host nation support. The visit will offer a excellent opportunity to take a fresh look at the security arrangements under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.


The defense secretary will arrive Japan on Feb. 3, after visiting South Korea. He will meet with Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


During a congressional hearing in the U.S. Senate, Secretary Mattis stressed that the security of the Asia-Pacific region is “one of the priorities.” The Japanese government welcomes his visit, with Defense Minister Inada commenting, “The Secretary’s visit to Asia so soon after the inauguration of the new president shows that the U.S. has a high level of interest in the Asia-Pacific region.”


Under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, the attack capability for defending Japan is entrusted to the U.S. military. In return, Japan is obligated to provide bases for the U.S. military for the purpose of maintaining the peace and security of the East Asia region. Without the bases in Japan, the U.S. military would have to spend an enormous amount of money for military deployment in the region. The security treaty, according to the prime minister, “benefits both countries.” It does not unilaterally benefit Japan at the expense of the U.S.


However, President Trump has urged Japan and other “allies” to take on a greater share of the cost burden since before the inauguration.


Does the President understand the actual situation surrounding the security treaty? Is he aware of the fact that Japan has faithfully fulfilled its base obligation and paid more in host nation support than is stipulated under the treaty and other agreements?


At the Japan-U.S. defense ministerial as well as at the summit meeting scheduled for next month, Japan must call for an accurate understanding of the reality of the security arrangements and the “reciprocal nature of obligations” under the treaty. We should not easily give in to requests for additional contributions


With regard to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, the concentration of the U.S. bases in Okinawa and the unfairness of the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) are more pressing and serious issues than the cost burden.


Instead of preserving the security treaty as an “alliance” that is an “unchangeable principle” like the prime minister says, why don’t we use the change of government in the U.S. as an opportunity to review and reevaluate every single problem that has arisen with the treaty?


The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty was in danger of becoming irrelevant when the Cold War ended. But in 1996, it took on the raison d’etre of maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and has since grown to become “a cornerstone of peace and prosperity” in the region. In order for the treaty to continue to perform its vital role in the future, another redefinition of the treaty will probably be necessary.


We should ease the burden borne by the Okinawan people of hosting the U.S. bases in concrete ways and rectify the unfairness of the SOFA. Host nation support should be adjusted appropriately in accordance with the treaty and other agreements. The treaty should evolve into more equal one under which Japan can take the initiative and not be simply a “follower” of the U.S.


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