The ink was barely dry on the new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, which were unveiled during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Washington last month, when Sen. John McCain, chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a wake-up call to the Japanese people. He said he expects Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to put boots on the ground in the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula and hopes they will scale up operations in the Middle East and South China Sea in support of U.S. military forces.
Whoa! McCain is absolutely right that the new guidelines expand considerably what Japan is prepared to do in support of its U.S. ally, and there are no longer any geographic constraints, but his remarks clearly underscore that the U.S. is way more enthusiastic about the new arrangements than the Japanese people. Opinion polls suggest that Abe has not yet convinced many citizens of the benefits of the more robust security posture he favors.