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Editorial: Japan should support U.S.’s return to international cooperation

The Japanese and U.S. leaders held a telephone conference. After his inauguration, U.S. President Joe Biden has changed many policies from the previous administration, such as rejoining the Paris agreement on climate change. We would like Japan to strengthen its cooperation with the U.S. and support the U.S.’s return to international cooperative policies.

 

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Biden spoke on the phone for about 30 minutes in the early hours of Jan. 28. It was the second time they spoke since November 2020 and the first time since President Biden took office.

 

Both leaders confirmed their plan to cooperate closely to strengthen the “Japan-U.S. alliance” and to realize the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” Suga expressed his appreciation for the new administration’s policies such as returning to the Paris agreement and reversing the decision to leave the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

The administration of former President Trump, with which former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration was on good terms, turned its back on international cooperation and fanned the U.S.’s conflict with China.

 

The change to President Biden’s Democratic administration signifies a fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy. The Japanese government should actively support the U.S.’s return to international cooperation and work together to resolve issues that the international community faces, such as global warming and COVID-19.

 

President Biden said that he will “restore alliance relationships.” This would be a welcome move if it means that the U.S. would free itself from unilateralism and promote international cooperation.

 

For Japan, it may imply an increase in Japan’s share of hosting the U.S. military (the consideration budget) or enhancing the role of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). It is necessary to take action based on careful observation of the situation.

 

Japan’s share of the cost of stationing the U.S. military in Japan is about 189.3 billion yen. The previous U.S. administration reportedly requested 8 billion dollars (840 billion yen), which is four times the current amount.

 

Japan’s current share of the cost totals nearly 800 billion yen if facility rental costs and base subsidies are included. This share of the cost is not Japan’s responsibility under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. In future negotiations, Japan should carefully explain that it bears an excessive burden, 

 

Japan should also propose a review of the mass procurement of expensive U.S. weapons, such as F-35 fighters, and the construction of a new U.S. military base at Henoko in Nago City, Okinawa, on occasion of the change in administration.

 

How to engage with China, whose recent military and economic rise is striking, is an issue for both Japan and the U.S.

 

President Biden confirmed in the telephone conference that Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which stipulates the U.S.’s responsibility for Japan’s defense, applies to the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa.

 

It is necessary to defend Japan’s territory with U.S. military power as a shield, but the intensification of conflict that may lead to an unexpected situation must be avoided. Both countries must create mutual trust among the countries concerned and make efforts toward diplomacy that leads to regional stability.

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