By Komori Yoshihisa, Sankei Shimbun associate correspondent in Washington D.C.
What does the U.S. expect from Japan’s new administration?
I asked some experts in Washington for their reaction to Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. As I expected, I received the greatest number of comments on Japan’s security policy.
Economic Strategy Institute (ESI) President Clyde Prestowitz, Jr. raised the question: “Based on Mr. Kishida’s comment on seeking a ‘stable relationship with China,’ how will he respond to China’s military offensive, which is the concern of the U.S.?”
Kevin Doak, professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Georgetown University, posed the question: “How will Kishida’s proposal to abolish all nuclear weapons align with the protection Japan receives from the U.S. nuclear umbrella?”
Hudson Institute Senior Fellow James Przystup, who was previously a professor at the National Defense University, commented, “Japan’s security environment is the worst since World War II. This is the best opportunity to make a fundamental improvement in Japan’s security policy.”
Przystup has been involved in the Japan-U.S. alliance as a senior official in charge of East Asia as well as Japanese affairs at the State Department and Defense Department under Republican and Democratic administrations. I asked Przystup, who has a long history of involvement with Japan, for a detailed explanation of his expectations for Japan’s new administration in the security realm.
Przystup said that the security crisis and threat that Japan faces is unprecedented, and summarized Japan’s security environment as follows:
China is constantly expanding its military presence, and in particular, is reinforcing its nuclear capabilities. China is breaking down the normative international order in East Asia and is continually sending its armed vessels to intrude into Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands.
China has intensified its military actions against Taiwan, which Japan has declared is important for its own security. In October 2021, a large number of Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwanese airspace. North Korea launched missiles–a display of the military threat it poses to Japan.
Przystup then commented on U.S. expectations [for Japan]:
“Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities Melissa Dalton stated that ‘now that a latent enemy is on a new offensive in multiple domains, the U.S. needs a new integrated deterrence strategy that strengthens ties with allies.’ The current U.S. suprapartisan understanding is that Japan’s security policy should not be limited to the defense of Japan, and Japan needs a policy that clearly states how it will respond to regional contingencies.”
“Japan’s 2013 National Security Strategy and the 2015 guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense cooperation include statements on specific strategies for Japan’s defense, but do not clearly discuss how Japan may respond to regional or global security challenges through the Japan-U.S. alliance. Both documents need to be reviewed and modified.”
After Przystup commented on U.S. expectations for strengthening and expanding Japan’s security policy, he raised some specific issues:
“It will be vital for Japan in this situation to boost its defense budget to 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP). It will be necessary to enhance the Japan-U.S. alliance so that Japan can possess capabilities to attack enemy bases as well as capabilities to prevent enemy attacks. It will also be essential for Japan to reinforce defense capabilities in intelligence, artificial intelligence, space, and cyberspace.”
Przystup then emphasized that “amid the situation in which the Taiwan situation is directly related to Japan’s survival, Japan has no choice but to acknowledge that deterrence in peacetime against China in the Taiwan Strait as well as a response in wartime has become an important issue for Japan’s national security.”