The administration of U.S. President-elect George W. Bush will include many pro-Japanese officials. This reflects U.S. political history. Many officials of President Bill Clinton’s administration had served under President Jimmy Carter, who came to power 12 years earlier. For example, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher was undersecretary of state, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry was undersecretary of defense, in the Carter administration.
The Carter years of 1977 to 1981 saw pseudo-detente worldwide following the fall of Saigon to communist forces in 1975, as did Cambodia and Laos later. This marked the end of U.S. military involvement in Indochina. In Europe, hope for detente spread after a European security conference was held in Helsinki. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union continued its military expansion. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan forced the Carter administration to admit its mistakes and reverse policy in 1980, and the age of pseudo-detente ended.
Former Carter administration officials returned to power in 1992, this time after the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War. While in power, these officials did not have to ponder the balance of power between nations, the most important element in international politics.
Such officials tend to lose sight of the importance of military alliances, the key to the balance of power. The Carter administration once made an unbelievably naive proposal of withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea. Clinton administration officials, during their early economic negotiations with Japan, made moves that could have undermined the Japan-U.S. alliance.
The 12 years under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush saw the Western victory over the Soviet Union. The Western alliance won the Cold War in the face of tremendous Soviet military threats. In the interim, Reagan cooperated with then Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone to reform the Western defense system in the Far East, contributing to Western victory in the Cold War.
U.S. civilian and military officials who was involved in security policy in the period highly valued Japan’s strategic importance and the Japan-U.S. alliance. They trust the Japanese government and people.
These officials, who are coming back to power, are acutely aware of the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance, which is little recognized in times of peace. International relations are built on the balance of power between nations, which is supported by alliances. A series of articles written and speeches made by some Bush aides — including articles written by Condoleeza Rice and Bob Zoellick in Foreign Affairs magazine, a report compiled by a team led by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage and a speech made by Larry Lindsey — all indicate their strong belief that Japan is a true U.S. ally in the Far East. In their view, China is a communist country, and should be treated as such.
The Armitage report proposed Japan-U.S. information exchanges; Lindsey proposed Japan-U.S. cooperation to help Japan increase exports to the U.S. and expand investment in the U.S. and to stabilize currency exchange-rates. These efforts should help Japan in its fiscal reform. The Armitage report also called for more equal sharing of defense responsibilities between Japan and the U.S. and raised the question of the right of collective defense.
Japan faces a challenge in its relations with the U.S. The higher expectations the U.S. has for Japan, the more frustration and disappointment it will suffer if Japan fails to respond to its initiatives.
Whenever the U.S. made favorable overtures to Japan in the past, Japan made only makeshift responses, in keeping with government leaders’ formal answers to opposition questions on important issues. This often disappointed Washington. In some cases, Tokyo asked Washington to say that its initiatives did not represent official policy, much to the dismay of the initiators of the proposals.
I believe that pro-Japanese Bush advisers informed Japan of their policy ideas through their informal reports and speeches. The Japanese government should at least accept the proposals with gratitude as friendly advice. Courtesy requires at least that.
The coming six months will be crucial for Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s administration in dealing with the U.S. The government should try not to disappoint and frustrate the incoming Bush administration. This is a matter of national interest.
Vice President Albert Gore, while expressing disappointment over his loss to Bush, urged Americans to unite behind Bush. In contrast, when the Diet recently voted down a no-confidence motion against the Mori Cabinet, some officials of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said the vote did not affirm the confidence of Mori. Foreign analysts were perplexed by the inconsistency. This contrast is deplorable.
Japan now has a golden opportunity to restructure its relations with the U.S. and work to establish peace and prosperity in the 21st century. Personal animosities and power struggles aside, we should support the Mori Cabinet so that Japan can respond favorably to the U.S. goodwill. As Gore said in his concession speech, the nation is more important than a political party.
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