CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS – The secrecy law proposed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party would benefit U.S.-Japan security cooperation but must respect the important role played by a free press in maintaining democracy, a U.S. expert on Japanese affairs said in a recent interview.
“We do share a lot, but there has been some concern about the legal structure in Japan and I think this will make sharing easier,” said Joseph Nye, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense.
Although the envisioned law could prove beneficial to bilateral relations, lawmakers must be careful to balance the needs of national security with the public’s right to know, Nye said.
“If you make everything secret, then it’s a real problem. On the other hand, there are some things that probably should be secret to be able to have an effective security policy,” said Nye, a distinguished service professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
An independent press is essential to democracy, he said, and should play a “very important” role in preventing the law’s abuse.
“The press has to stay as a watchdog about how the act is administered,” he said.
The proposed law is seen as an important component of a push by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP to establish a national security council similar to that in the United States.
The U.S. National Security Council is an advisory group in the White House that coordinates activities among the various government agencies dealing with security issues.
Despite his concerns about the proposed secrecy laws, Nye believes establishing a Japanese NSC will be a positive step.
“It will help coordinate policy inside Japan, and I think it also provides additional points of informal contact between the American NSC and the Japanese NSC,” he said.
Nye struck a positive note about a recent move in China aimed at setting up an entity believed similar to the U.S. NSC as it could play an important role in maritime disputes with Japan in the East China Sea.
China claims the Japanese-administered Senkaku Island chain as its own. The site has recently hosted potentially dangerous encounters between the two nations’ ships and aircraft. China calls the islets Diaoyu.