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Editorial: Japan-U.S. “bonds” must not be predicated on arms purchases

  • May 29, 2019
  • , Asahi , p. 12
  • JMH Translation

Yesterday Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump boarded escort ship Kaga at the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) Yokosuka Naval Base in Kanagawa Prefecture and spoke to about 500 Japanese and American service personnel.


It was also the first time for a U.S. president to board an MSDF vessel and for the two countries’ leaders to together encourage SDF and U.S. military troops. The aim was probably to stress the unity of the Japan-U.S. alliance and to contain China.


The Kaga is scheduled to be upgraded from a helicopter escort ship to an aircraft carrier. “The Kaga will help defend against a range of complex threats in the region and far beyond,” said President Trump.


Successive cabinets have not approved Japan’s possession of an attack aircraft carrier, and acquisition of such a carrier deviates from the principles of [Japan’s] exclusively defense-oriented policy. The Kaga has already been dispatched to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean and engages in joint exercises with the U.S. military and others. If it is converted into an aircraft carrier, there is no question but that Japan’s partnership with the U.S. military will be expanded incrementally throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region.


The Kaga will deploy the F-35B, America’s state-of-the-art stealth fighter. First, it was decided that 42 F-35s would be deployed, and then acquisition of 105 additional F-35s, costing about 1.2 trillion yen, was authorized. In his address to the troops, President Trump welcomed the procurement, saying, “This purchase will give Japan the largest F-35 fleet of any U.S. ally.”


The fact remains, however, that the cause of the crash by an F-35A deployed to the MSDF Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture still has not been elucidated. Japan must not move forward with the procurement as if nothing had happened, in an attempt to curry the President’s favor.


Amid the move to “Buy American,” it is the “Aegis Ashore” land-based missile interceptor system, however, whose effectiveness in truly defending Japan is most doubtful.  


At the same time as President Trump visited Japan, State Minister of Defense Kenji Harada traveled to Akita and Yamaguchi Prefectures, which are both candidate sites for the deployment of Aegis Ashore facilities. The local residents are concerned about the impact on human health of the radar waves emitted by the facilities, and he visited the two prefectures to seek the people’s understanding for the deployment by communicating to them the results of an investigation showing the waves have no adverse impact.


To introduce Aegis Ashore facilities, however, requires a huge investment of several hundred billion yen. In past editorials, we have said that the pros and cons of introduction should be reconsidered from a cost-benefit perspective amid Japan’s tight fiscal situation.


In no way can it be said that the consent of the local people has been gained. In Abu Town, which is adjacent to the candidate site in Yamaguchi Prefecture, about 55% of voters have joined a residents’ group opposing the deployment. The Ministry of Defense has announced its security policy against terrorism, but it has not responded to residents’ fears that the deployment would make their town the first target of an attack in a contingency.


Are the “Japan-U.S. bonds” that Prime Minister Abe speaks of a relationship predicated on the purchase of weapons?


At the recent summit, the reduction of the burden of the U.S. bases on Okinawa apparently was barely mentioned at all. This is symbolic of the administration’s stance of valuing the alliance while looking down on the will of the local residents, who are the basis for the alliance.

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