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Editorial: President Trump’s remark is opportunity to reaffirm Japan-U.S. security treaty

In an interview with a U.S. television station, American President Donald Trump expressed frustration with the Japan-U.S. security treaty, saying the obligation to defend is one-sided. The United States protects Japan, but “if we are attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us,” he said.

 

There is no need to fret that this remark is a sign that the United States will abrogate the security treaty. However, it cannot be denied that it reveals structural instability in the treaty.

 

In the future, [the U.S.] may request Japan to increase its defense expenditures and to cooperate in escorting tankers in the Middle East. Japan should fulfill its due responsibilities.

 

At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga emphasized that the treaty will not be reviewed, saying, “The obligations of the two countries are balanced overall. It is inappropriate to say it is one-sided.”

 

The basic structure of the security treaty is that the United States defends Japan and Japan grants [use of Japan’s facilities and areas] for the U.S. military bases. In other words, Japan and the United States share an “asymmetric and reciprocal relationship.” The security treaty is vital for the United States as well.

 

Because Japan provides bases, the U.S. military can deploy not only in Northeast Asia but also from the West Pacific to the Middle East. Abrogation would overturn the U.S.’s world strategy from its foundations. Without the Japan-U.S. alliance, the United States would not be able to advance a “new cold war” with China in a way advantageous to itself. It would likely not be able to block China’s hegemony.

 

The Japan-U.S. alliance is a public asset for the world upon which the freedom and prosperity of the peoples of Indo-Pacific nations are premised. Maintaining the alliance is a responsibility Japan and the United States bear toward the international community.

 

Both the Japanese and U.S. governments fully understand this. This is why abrogation of the treaty is an impossibility.

 

Nonetheless, however, structural instability remains. “If we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us. They can watch it on a Sony television,” said President Trump.

 

If this were to actually happen, the people of the United States would undoubtedly not consider the treaty reciprocal and would oppose it vehemently. If the hearts of the American people were to stray from Japan, even the U.S. government would have a hard time fulfilling the treaty.

 

The administration of Shinzo Abe has put in place security legislation that allows Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense in a limited way. This has opened the path for a situation where the two nations protect each other, but there are excessive limitations on the application [of the right]. It is not impossible for the scenario that President Trump outlines to happen.

 

In 2011, Sankei Shimbun published its own draft of the security treaty amended so that Japan and the United States had a completely equal mutual defense framework. Our draft treaty remains significant today.

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