Japan an 'Anchor of Security' in Asia-Pacific

By Oki, Seima | The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), September 23, 2015 | Go to article overview

Japan an 'Anchor of Security' in Asia-Pacific


Oki, Seima, The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)


The new security legislation was enacted Saturday. The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed William Cohen, who served as U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001, on his thoughts of the legislation and what it means to Japan's relationship with the United States and the entire East Asia region.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: With the new security legislation, Japan will be able to exercise the right of collective self-defense for the first time. How would you assess the legislation and what is its significance in your view?

William Cohen: I think it is long overdue. This is something that has been in Japan's interest and the U.S. for some time. I know that there is opposition on the part of a number of Japanese but I think given the change in the world situation; given the fact that Japan is certainly an economic power, (it was overdue).

The U.S. has been the leading economic and military power for some time. But the world is continuing to change. Russia is rebuilding its military and acting aggressively. China is building its military, and so, I think it's important that the Japanese people understand that the world is changing, and its responsibilities have to change as well.

Q: What do you think is the most significant point of the legislation?

A: I think it is the recognition that Japan has to play a wider role in terms of defining what is in its national security interests. For example, if those U.S. Aegis ships providing protective defense for all of Japan were to come under attack and Japan could not be of help to the U.S., that is not a fair arrangement of power between two allied countries.

There's this notion that Japan has a role to play -- a bigger role to play -- because of its responsibilities. So, I think it's important for the Japanese people to understand this -- that Japan has been our anchor of security in the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Reinforces bilateral relationships

But Japan also needs to do more to reinforce this relationship because even in the United States, you have people who are running for high office saying, "Look at what the U.S. does and what do we get in return?" And that is starting to appeal to a number of people in the U.S. Most people don't feel that way, but that's an argument being made.

So, my argument is the United States has a very strong relationship with Japan, and one way to reinforce that -- to make sure it endures -- is to have Japan make a greater effort than it does to contribute to that security. I think the American people came to accept the notion that we have an obligation to defend all of Asia. If Asia has no obligation to defend us, this would not be well received.

Q: The Obama administration had been advocating the policy of "Rebalance." Will the new Japanese legislation be useful to this policy?

A: The answer is yes. We are strengthening our relationship with Japan, Australia, India, the Philippines, with all of the democratic countries in the Asia-Pacific region. We are building stronger coalitions. We are training together. All in an effort to say that we as collective democracies, are trying to preserve the rule of law and to prevent any one country from dominating the region.

We are not looking for territory. We are not trying to impose our will on anyone. We are trying to maintain the open lines of commerce, and we are trying to maintain stability. Because, where there is instability or the threat of conflict, then you have the flight of capital, lack of investment. People do not want to invest in areas that are not stable. So, as a result of what the U.S. has been able to do, there has been great stability and many people throughout the region have benefited from that.

So, now we have to see other ways in which other people can help maintain that stability, and the answer is "yes"' Japan can do so; India can do so; Australia can do so. All of these democracies are not trying to pose a threat to anyone, but rather to say, "We need to have a collective security arrangement to make sure no one country is trying to dominate the region. …

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