THE G.W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION AND NORTHEAST ASIAN SECURITY:
A JAPANESE PERSPECTIVE
by Masahiro Matsumura
The current Northeast Asian security situation enjoys good stability
and no imminent military threat. However, the United States and Japan see
elements of potential enmity in China's behavior. The US- Japan alliance
is taking a hedging strategy and this will be increasingly so under Bush.
Howver, there exist a series of intractable impediments to upgrading and
strengthening the bilateral alliance, and the prospect for transformation
is limited. Many Chinese leaders are ignorant of these critical details
and, unfortunately, are overreacting.
The Bush Administration inherited a geostrategic approach embedded in
stark rhetorics against the PRC and North Korea, an approach which it proclaimed
during the presidential election campaign. The two countries will continue
to be major problems. The Administration faces a series of constraints
of the prevailing status quo in Northeast Asian security, and will continue
an engagement policy, although some adjustments and changes are expected.
The Administration will concentrate on its policy efforts in strengthening
the USJapan alliance in order to preserve its dominance and leadership
in the region.
This paper aims to make the above understanding more clear and explicit,
and to inform the Chinese participants of potential disagreements and conflicts
between the United States and Japan in creating a more militarily-effective
I. THE SECURITY ENVIRONMENT
The current security environment in Northeast Asia lacks any imminent
or serious military threat and/or confrontation, especially among the United
States, the PRC, and Japan. Yet, the three countries do not share
common values, and the region relies on a balance-of-power mechanism to
articulate differing geostrategic interests. The region is devoid
of political foundation on which to establish a solid multilateral collective
security system involving military sanction and enforcement. The stability
is reasonably high, but the durability is uncertain.
In this context, the Bush Administration will continue an engagement
policy , however, with deterrence elements more salient. Essentially,
the Administration will take a "tougher" stance, at least rhetorically,
to the PRC and North Korea. Many Japanese leaders and analysts take this
renewed Bush posture as a fact of life, but are concerned because it may
cause unexpected effects on Northeast Asian security, both positive and
negative. Yet, it is very difficult to evaluate these effects at
1) NORTH KOREA
Bush's North Korean policy will be based explicitly on deterrence, while
producing a virtual trilateral alliance of the U.S., Japan and South Korea.
Even after the North-South summit meeting in Pyongyang, June 2000, and
the subsequent rapprochement, North Korea still keeps its military posture
intact for invasion and aggression, with some temporary improvement of
military readiness. Some high-ranking officials of the Bush Administration,
if not as its proclaimed policy, have already suggested to alter the 1994
Agreed Framework, constructing a fire-power station instead of a nuclear
Hideshi Takesada as well as some analysts in Japan urge to differentiate
diplomatic negotiation processes of non-proliferation from those of unification:
four party framework (the U.S., ROK, PRC, and DPRK) for unification and
a new four party framework (the U.S., Japan, ROK, and DPRK) for missile
threat and non-proliferation. Japan has a strong and keen interest
to secure a nuclear-free Unified Korea. The emergence of a nuclear
Korea would compel Japan to go nuclear, which involves a militarily more
independent Japan and, most probably, abrogation or at least major modification
of the U.S.-Japan alliance.
A semi-permanent division of the Peninsular is congenial for the geostrategic
interests of four major powers -- the United States, Japan, the PRC, and
Russia. Due to very strong aspirations toward national unification
among Koreans, both South and North, many Japanese analysts see eventual
unification and withdrawal of U.S. forces in South Korea unavoidable.
Then the United States will have to lower the level of forward deployment
in the region, and the US-Japan alliance will enhance its pivotal role.
Depending upon the level of U.S. commitment, Japan may or may not need
to possess more independent military capabilities within the alliance.
The China factor is central to the post-unification balance of power.
2) THE PRC
The Beijing regime is experiencing serious economic and social problems,
which deepens its legitimacy crisis. The political stability is in
doubt even in a medium-term. China's participation into the WTO will
generate complicate and complex effects on the protracted crisis.
Beijing tries to avoid another military flare-up over the Taiwan Strait
as indicated by a series of obscure but significant rhetorical changes.
Beijing also has attempted in vain to improve its relations with Japan
for the continued provision of her economic aids. These diplomatic
maneuvers have produced a very limited success.
The Beijing regime has consistently made a significant military-buildup,
with emphasis on modernization and professionalization. It has imported
some high-tech naval vessels and jet fighters from Russia, and is interested
in acquiring an aircraft carrier. However, serious resource limitation
will necessitate its budgetary priority to be placed on nuclear and missile
modernization. As a result, Chinese nuclear force will be strengthened
while its size remains modest. Japanese analysts understand that China
aims some 66 IRBMs at Japan. Due to a drastic change in the public
mood, the Japanese government may further cut its economic aids to the
PRC if Chinese hostilities continue.
Missiles are the only viable military threat for Japan. China's
conventional naval and air force capabilities are very limited and will
be so for decades to come, even if the above modernization and professionalization
are achieved. These forces will be easily destroyed if an armed attack
occurs. Whether Japan intervenes in the Taiwan Strait will be determined
by the level of U.S. commitment to Taiwan, by any means Chinese efforts
to deter Japan with nuclear missiles. Japan has been within the range
of Chinese IRBMs for the last thirty years, and the Japanese do not feel
any additional threats from these existing missiles.
Given the above parameters, the United States and Japan need to follow
the current status quo policy by setting up the modus operandai of the
bilateral alliance and improving its deterrence function.
II. THE U.S.-JAPAN ALLIANCE
The so-called Armitage report of October 2000, or "The United States
and Japan: Advancing Toward a Mature Partnership," proposes to upgrade
the bilateral alliance as modeled after the Anglo-American alliance.
Such an upgrade involves Japan's decision in favor of the exercise of collective
self-defense action. Japan cannot accommodate this American expectation
right away due to a series of constitutionality debates regarding Article
In tandem with the legal questions, the alliance also needs to fulfill
operational preconditions, such as the Standard Operational Procedures
(SOP) and the Rules on Engagement (ROE), which are essential for combined
operation, interoperability and data-link, and intelligence-sharing.
(The 1997 U.S.-Japan Guidelines for Defense Cooperation emphasizes the
importance of (1) information sharing and policy coordination, (2) common
standards and procedures, and (3) bilateral coordination mechanism.)
Yet, the alliance has not succeeded in eliminating obstacles so as to satisfy
these preconditions. Behind these details of alliance management, there
exists the Question -- whether or not Japan's status of a de facto US protectorate
to be redefined under the US "information umbrella."
The Japanese government has not yet made any official commitment to
procure and deploy a TMD system. However, the U.S. government has
been driven by increasingly strong vested interests of its military-industrial
complex, while having significantly deepened its policy initiatives toward
NMD/TMD. Considering unflinching China's expansion and modernization
of nuclear arsenals, US and Japanese defense policymakers now accept the
argument that TMD per se makes good military/strategic sense. The
Japanese government has already made solid commitment to collaborative
R&D with the United States for naval upper-tier TMD. Given these
factors, the policy choice for Japan to make is not whether it goes for
TMD, but when and what kind of TMD system it should deploy.
Chinese complaints against NMD/TMD are of secondary importance, because
many U.S. and Japanese analysts believe that Chinese missile development
and nuclear modernization programs have their own R&D dynamics and
strategic considerations, and are independent of U.S. and Japanese defense
policies. Because of rapidly shrinking resource-base, Russia will
not be able to sustain the current level of their nuclear arsenals.
The United States has made some compromise and assisted Russia to reduce
its nuclear weapons in the soft-landing transition to its complete decline
as a nuclear superpower. This prescription does not apply to China.
Since spring 1996, the United States has provided limited early warning
information via the DSP system and the NORAD. Japanese defense policymakers
face a serious dilemma: a US-Japan combined TMD command relying on US infrared
satellites is the most efficient format for weapon system management, while
such a full integration with the US command and control system will deprive
Japan of political autonomy and independence. How a TMD command is
architected will shape the power structure of U.S.-Japan military relations.
Effective data-link is an imperative of combined military operations.
If the US-Japan alliance should be modeled after the Anglo-American counterpart
in a manner to function as in the Yugo/Kosovo operations, it is essential
to secure real-time digital tactical information flows through the Joint
Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) via LINK16. Analog
connectivity through LINK11 is not sufficient for high speed and large
volume communications, which precludes effective battlefield management
taking full advantage of AWACS, JSTAR, or tele-conference.
Japan's SDF forces have limited LINK11 capabilities, and very limited
LINK16 capabilities; they are not interoperable with U.S. forces, save
for limited naval air defense and anti-submarine countermeasures.
Three SDF services have not had any unified command among themselves and
no experience in genuine joint operation. (In this sense, the creation
of a unified TMD command among themselves will constitute a breakthrough.)
As a result, they do not have effective inter-service data-link and common
Without solving these seemingly technical issues, the U.S.-Japan alliance
remains a paper tiger; SDF forces are only capable of rear area support.
It should be noted that French forces in the Yugo/Kosovo operations were
not interoperable with U.S. force, and were compelled to operate rear area
supports alone. The current U.S.-Japan divide in military capabilities
necessitates decentralized coordination, rather than integrated cooperation.
Japanese policymakers need to reduce its level of reliance on the U.S.
"information umbrella." For this purpose, SDF forces first need to establish
a unified command and achieve full inter-service interoperability, before
considering any meaningful combined command and data-link with U.S. forces.
An effective alliance requires its partners to share a common assessment
of threat, security environment and national interests so as to adopt a
common defense policy. Intelligence-sharing in peacetime is, therefore,
essential to strengthen the alliance relationship as proposed the Armitage
European Parliament sessions and other open sources have revealed the
existence of the Anglo-American communication intelligence (COMMIT) alliance
consisting of five English- speaking countries -- the United States, Britain,
Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The intelligence-collecting system
known as the code name ECHELON is very extensive and intrusive in which
the exclusivity of the five countries are contrasted with their occasionally
hostile activities against the third party allies and other countries.
Japan is categorized as a third party country, which is concurrently an
integral part of the COMMIT system for information collection and a primary
target of hostile COMMIT activities. Japan enjoys a good access to
the intelligence retrieval system, however, with considerable constraints
attached if compared with the English-speaking countries. The PRC
has a very limited access to the retrieval system which it has obtained
originally in exchange of hosting two COMMIT facilities against the former
Soviet Union which are located in Xinjian.
Japanese leaders cannot eliminate skepticism about the nature of the
alliance with the United States until Japan becomes an equal and full COMMIT
partner. They will deem it inseparable to achieve high military integration
and interoperability on one hand and full intelligence-sharing on the other
hand. They will be also sensitive to the question how the new U.S.
Administration treats its extant COMMIT relationship with the PRC.
(There are some vital aspects for long-term structural transformation
in U.S.-Japan military relations as the unavoidable, logical progression
of the changes at the operational level as discussed above, such as defense
industrial relations. But, these aspects are beyond the scope of this paper.)
III. THE CONCLUDING REMARK
The current Northeast Asian security enjoys a reasonably high level
of stability, and no imminent military threat exists. However, the
United States and Japan see some serious elements of uncertainty and potential
enmity in Chinese behavior. The U.S.-Japan alliance is taking a hedging
strategy so as to enhance its deterrence function; this will be increasingly
so under Bush who proclaimed such a strategic approach in the election
campaign. Yet, there exist a series of intractable impediments to
upgrading and strengthening of the bilateral alliance, and the prospect
for transformation is limited. Many Chinese decision-makers and analysts
are considerably ignorant of these critical details and, unfortunately,
are overreacting. Relevant confidence-building measures need to be taken
as the matter of top priority.