U.S.-Japan Relations: Partnership and Progress

By Arvizu, Alexander A. | DISAM Journal, December 2008 | Go to article overview
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U.S.-Japan Relations: Partnership and Progress

Arvizu, Alexander A., DISAM Journal

[The following are excerpts from Arvizu's statement before the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Washington, DC, June 12, 2008.]

It is a privilege to appear before you today. The U.S. and Japan will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 2010. This historic milestone is not just an occasion to reflect on the successes of the past six decades, but an opportunity to look forward toward future challenges and possibilities. Our Alliance with Japan has not only enhanced our own security and that of the region; it has blossomed into a political and economic partnership based on shared values and shared vision that provides substantial benefits to both countries and to people throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan is one of our most important trading partners and a staunch and reliable ally in fora ranging from the United Nations to the Six-Party Talks. Men and women from Japan's Self-Defense Forces support U.S. and coalition partners in Iraqi reconstruction and humanitarian assistance operations and Operation Enduring Freedom. We work together on important issues throughout Asia such as increasing regional economic integration, promoting democracy and human rights, and coordinating humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Japan is also becoming a more active partner in global affairs; and our bilateral and multilateral cooperation transcends the Asia-Pacific region to include African development, promoting peace in the Middle East, and combating climate change.

Whatever challenges the next 50 years beyond 2010 may bring, I am confident our relationship with Japan will deepen and evolve so that it will contribute to peace, prosperity, and security for the region and beyond.

Japanese Domestic Politics

A brief look at the current domestic political situation in Japan may help provide context for a broader discussion of U.S.-Japan security alliance issues and political and economic issues.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda assumed office in September of 2007, after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party [LDP] lost its majority in the Upper House in the July 2007 elections. Due to the electoral cycle, Japan may face a few years of legislative uncertainty, which will certainly affect the speed of government decision making. This is the first time since before the Second World War that Japan has been governed by a divided Diet; and the Fukuda Cabinet, the LDP, and the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan [DPJ], are navigating uncharted waters. As the largest party in the Upper House of the Diet, the DPJ now has the power to greatly hinder legislation. While the LDP can technically override the Upper House and enact legislation due to their supra-majority in the Lower House, as a practical matter, there are severe constraints on the Fukuda cabinet's ability to employ this tactic. This is especially true on issues with a high public profile, deemed to require substantial debate and compromise before passage into law.

However, the DPJ would like to demonstrate to the Japanese people that it can govern effectively. Thus, there is room for compromise and incentive to do so. Progress on a range of issues of both domestic and international importance is possible, but the rationale for action is occasionally less clear than it has been in the past.

U.S.-Japan Security Alliance

The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security was signed between the United States and Japan in 1960 during a very different era--at the height of the Cold War--and was marked by uncertainty in the United States over the treaty's real strategic value and by protests and demonstrations in Japan over the very concept of entering into a formal alliance with a former adversary. The strategic relationship has evolved over the years into the linchpin of American security policy in the Pacific and a core element of Japan's national security policy.

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