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Suga to Trump: U.S.-Japan alliance to stay

by

Staff Writer

In response to eyebrow-raising positions recently espoused by Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reaffirmed Monday that Japan’s three nonnuclear principles and the Japan-U.S. alliance remain the cornerstone of its diplomacy.

Trump, the front-runner in the turbulent U.S. election, is threatening to withdraw U.S. troops from Japan and said he is open to Japan developing its own atomic arsenal.

“Whoever becomes president of the United States, the Japan-U.S. alliance, based on the bilateral security agreement, will remain the core of Japan’s diplomacy,” Suga told reporters. “We will maintain the three nonnuclear principles that prohibit Japan from owning, developing and transporting a nuclear arsenal.”

Suga also emphasized that the government will not react to every comment made by a U.S. candidate who has not been nominated.

Suga’s comments came after The New York Times on Saturday reported on Trump’s “America First” policy, under which the U.S. would not maintain military bases abroad unless allies like Japan or South Korea pay more to retain them.

The real estate mogul also said Japan and South Korea would be “better off” with their own nuclear weapons, as it would reduce pressure on Washington to defend them against North Korea and China.

Trump has taken the rare step of bringing up the Japan-U.S. alliance during the campaign. Most candidates have focused on domestic issues so far, such as jobs and the economy.

Critics call Trump’s views of Japan outdated and say he is intentionally adding Tokyo and Seoul to his list of targets because it resonates with his base — people who readily buy into his aggressive and provocative rhetoric and know little about international relations.

Yet, the government’s reaction to Trump’s hard-line stance is mixed. Some officials expressed reservation about his run for the presidency, given his threats to renegotiate the 56-year old bilateral security pact, however unrealistic it may sound. Yet conservatives such as former Osaka Mayor and Gov. Toru Hashimoto said last week on Twitter that Trump would be a good option for those opposed to U.S. military bases in Okinawa.

Japan experts say the world view espoused by Trump, who boasted that his top adviser is himself, is unrealistic and would harm U.S. interests. Many say the resulting vacuum caused by U.S. forces leaving the region would only invite China to become more assertive.

Although China is conducting large land reclamation projects in the South China Sea, experts say the presence of the U.S. military has kept it in check to some extent.

“China would do whatever it wants,” said Tsuneo Watanabe, policy research director at the Tokyo Foundation, a policy think tank. “Even if the U.S. wanted to return to the region, it would be very expensive.”

As for Trump’s remark about Japan becoming a nuclear power, Watanabe said South Korea would follow suit if Japan developed a nuclear arsenal, further destabilizing the region’s balance of power. That would not be a positive outcome for the U.S., which is benefiting from investing in Asia, Watanabe said.

Despite Trump’s assertion that the U.S. is being taken for a ride by allies that huddle under Washington’s nuclear umbrella, Japan has been paying host nation support to the U.S. military since 1978. The financial package covers expenses such as utilities and housing.

In January, the government agreed to allocate about ¥950 billion in host nation support, the most paid by all U.S. allies, over the next five years.

Masaru Nishikawa, associate professor of American politics at Tokyo-based Tsuda College, said the public and media should not be swayed by Trump’s remarks, because the billionaire does not seem to understand the U.S.-Japan alliance and changes his positions regularly.

“It is unclear if he can or would do what he says, even if he does get elected. He seems willing to say anything to win the primaries,” he said.

  • Zippy

    Trump may have a point about the allies of the US.. they need to have independent strength so they can better support US forces in defending themselves instead of expecting America to do the lion’s share of it across the globe.
    It’ll also be much harder to let America take the fall for foreign policy blunders if countires have to make all their own military decisions and take any flak that comes from making bad choices.

  • Zippy

    Trump may have a point about the allies of the US.. they need to have independent strength so they can better support US forces in defending themselves instead of expecting America to do the lion’s share of it across the globe.
    It’ll also be much harder to let America take the fall for foreign policy blunders if countires have to make all their own military decisions and take any flak that comes from making bad choices.

  • Liars N. Fools

    Japan is what I call a full fare free rider. It is full fare because it pays more than any other ally burden sharing money, albeit a goodly chunk of that is the “contribution” of Okinawan land. But it is still overwhelmingly a free rider that does not want to put its military in harm’s way. Abe Shinzo wants to change that in some way because he seems bent on fighting China, but even he and his ilk want us to the really heavy lifting on that score even as the majority of Japanese don’t want to see any change in the fundamental pacificism that has accompanies the prosperity and reputation of the country after its horrific record of aggressive war and mass slaughter and inhumanity in imperial times.

    • ChinaMarine

      That’s a good way to put it….

      They want their cake, and they want to eat it too.

      • Liars N. Fools

        More like want their mochi and eat it, too:)

    • ChinaMarine

      That’s a good way to put it….

      They want their cake, and they want to eat it too.

  • Tachomanx

    I agree that Japan and South Korea should get their own nukes as they are surrounded by nuclear armed autocratic regimes that have shown a consistent will to use force against others.

    Nevertheless the alliance is important as to keep the region’s long term stability and avoid an escalation.

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    Increase the number of countries with nuclear weapons? That sounds like a good idea, I mean, if it was 1946 maybe. But we are talking about Donald, aren’t we. Every time he opens his mouth on “foreign policy” he makes me think of Martin Sheen’s character in The Dead Zone.

  • ChinaMarine

    Seems to me like he does…

    Let me see… Japan annually runs a $58 Billion (with a “B”) Dollar trade SURPLUS with the U.S., (has been for years and years) largely through the use of “collusion” and “Zaibatsu” to basically keep big ticket items from the U.S. from every seeing the light of day in the Japanese domestic market.

    Still have laws on the books which make DISCRIMINATION based on Age, Sex, and RACE LEGAL in Japan…

    That’s RIGHT! In case you’ve asleep or living in a cave the last 50 years, it’s still 100% LEGAL for Japanese to Discriminate against foreigners… Meanwhile, they can’t stand any talk of any other country wanting to be treated fairly…

    Too Bad Japan, You want to Join the International Community, You need to start acting like an Adult.

    And while we’re at it…

    Time to start building some memorials to the Victims of YOUR War Crimes…

    Germany has… Where’s your Memorials to your Victims… Not talking Hiroshima (that’s your own people) Talking about Your memorial to Nanking, Comfort women, Bataan… ect….

    Ever tried to rent an apartment or get apply for a Job as a Foreigner here in Japan..?

    Should I keep going…?

  • kim mullins

    I like Trumps idea. Bring all our soldiers home and spend the money we waste in the world on fixing our infrastructure and taking care of our vets whom the Obama administration have totally neglected. It took my son almost three years to get help and it was the bare minimum which is no help at all. He would be homeless if it wasn’t for me helping him with his struggles. Doesn’t even have insurance and has to travel 3 hours away to get to a veteran’s hospital for his medicine.