Courtesy Reuters

The strategic transformation of Europe and the multiple crises in the Soviet Union will profoundly change Japan's security environment. The retrenchment of Soviet forces confronting NATO has given new political meaning to the Soviet forces facing Japan.

As Soviet territory spans half the globe, America and its allies confront in Asia the same adversary as in the center of Germany. Communism's collapse in Eastern Europe, and its decomposition in the Soviet republics, is likely to undermine rulers in Pyongyang, Hanoi and Beijing. Before long, Mikhail Gorbachev may launch arms control initiatives aimed at Japanese and U.S. forces in the Pacific, perhaps even by opening negotiations on the return of Japan's Northern Territories.

Japan's security strategy is still shaped and circumscribed by its alliance with the United States. Soon, however, the purpose and nature of that alliance will be affected by the changes in Europe. The need to adjust the American-Japanese alliance to the changing global strategic environment comes at a time when Washington and Tokyo are also negotiating stubborn economic issues. This fact makes it all the more important that each nation understand how the alliance serves its own long-term interests. In the past a broad consensus in Japan supported America's global policy of containment and valued the alliance as a protective shield against Soviet encroachment. These simple strategic concepts may still have merit, but soon will not suffice.

The time has come for Japan to develop a sense of purpose for contributing to a peaceful world on a scope commensurate with its enormous economic and technological strength. Japan needs a grand strategy consonant with its self-image as a humanistic, democratic and peaceful nation, and a strategy able to win broad support among the Japanese people. To this end, the geographic horizon of Japan's defense policy must expand beyond the region of the Japanese islands.

Tokyo has pursued global economic policies for years by participating in international financial organizations and economic assistance programs and by guiding the far-flung investments of large Japanese corporations. But the Japanese body politic may be inclined to resist commensurate expansion of the nation's security horizon. Japanese public sentiment reflects a reluctance to become engaged in issues of foreign policy and defense. Over time, however, the disparity between the global horizon of Japan's economic policies and the regional horizon of its security strategy cannot persist. A nation with the economic and technological strength of Japan is unlikely to remain a purely regional power in the 21st century.


Japan's grand strategy will need to be developed in three dimensions. First, the regional dimension of Japanese security strategy must be adjusted to changes in the Soviet Union. Second, a global security dimension must be developed that takes account of not only Japan's economic relationship with distant regions, but also the potential spill-over of warfare or the actions of hostile forces. Third, a nuclear dimension must be included as well, not by Japan building its own nuclear arsenal, but by supporting a strategic order to prevent nuclear attack.

Today the regional dimension of Japan's security policy is still dominated by the threat posed by Soviet forces. For decades this threat has provided the main rationale for Japan's alliance with the United States. In recent years it has been essentially the only rationale. Given the transformation of East-West relations, the alliance must now devise a broader purpose and a long-term vision.

Both Japan's alliance with America and its adversarial relationship with the Soviet Union were not only created but repeatedly reinforced by developments in the postwar era. As a result of U.S. occupation, Japan became part of the American system for containing Soviet expansion. With the Korean War, Japan became the geographic anchor, as well as the main strategic reason, for America's effort to repel communist aggression in Korea.

More recently Japan has assumed an increasingly active role as a military ally of the United States by expanding its own defenses to counter the growth of Soviet military power in the Far East. In 1982, as urged by Washington, Tokyo decided to acquire the ability to defend sea-lanes 1,000 miles from its shores. In 1985 it adopted a new defense plan providing for a steady buildup, particularly in air and naval forces. In 1987 Japan breached its self-imposed, one-percent-of-GNP limit for defense spending. As part of this buildup Japan has deployed early warning aircraft, F-15 tactical fighter aircraft, new surface-to-air missiles, antiship and antitank guided missiles, new tanks, transport helicopters, sonar systems and antisubmarine aircraft. Its codevelopment of the FSX aircraft with the United States will equip Japan with a new support fighter for the 1990s.

For a number of reasons Japan's defense effort has been almost exclusively directed toward the Soviet Union. First, for the Japanese people the threat of Soviet military power was brought close to home by Stalin's support of Kim Il Sung's attempted conquest of South Korea. Second, the Soviet Union has stoked Japanese fears by its long history of menacingly demonstrating Soviet power in the region, including overflights and the buildup of Soviet forces facing Hokkaido in the 1980s. Third, the Soviet occupation of Japan's Northern Territories continues to nurture resentment among many Japanese citizens.

The historical reasons for Japan's adversarial relationship with the Soviet Union will become progressively weaker if the recent trends in Soviet foreign and domestic policy continue. Should democratization take root in the Soviet Union and should Moscow sharply reduce its military spending, a Soviet menace would no longer dominate Japan's strategic planning. Tokyo is already considering a reduction in military personnel, and its budget for new armaments and equipment will probably cease to grow. At the same time Tokyo is beginning to realize that the Soviet Union may not be Japan's only security concern in the future.

The importance of China, relative to that of the Soviet Union, is likely to grow in Japan's grand strategy. In terms of sheer military capability, China will represent a lesser threat for a long time to come. But Japan's relationship with China is both more intimate and more complex than its relationship with the Soviet Union. It is, therefore, likely to pose more difficult strategic problems. It is more intimate because of the proximity of China's huge population and its stronger economic links. Ninety percent of China's population lives within 2,000 miles of Japan, while the majority of the smaller Soviet population lives 3,000-6,000 miles away. Sino-Japanese trade is three to four times larger than Soviet-Japanese trade, and is likely to remain larger for some time.

Tokyo's relationship with Beijing is also more complex because its recent history is more discontinuous. The discontinuities derive from the drastic changes in both Sino-Soviet and Sino-American relations. In the 1950s Tokyo saw the Soviet and Chinese threats as fused. In the 1970s, while not quite sharing Washington's enthusiasm for its newly discovered strategic harmony with Beijing, Tokyo nonetheless followed America's rapprochement with China. The role of China in Japan's long-term strategy is difficult to anticipate, not only because of these repeated rearrangements in the Washington-Beijing-Moscow triangle, but for psychological reasons as well. For Japanese the moral coloration of their relationship with Moscow is straightforward: Moscow remains guilty of territorial expansion at the expense of Japan. The moral coloration of Japan's relationship with China is just the opposite: Japan's invasion of Manchuria in the 1930s reverses the placement of guilt and grievance. Even if Soviet military power continues to menace Japan as it has in recent years, Tokyo's long-term strategy will clearly need to give a great deal more care and weight to relations with Beijing.

The Sino-Japanese relationship, in turn, will bear heavily on the smaller nations in the region. A complex web of bilateral relations has evolved around China and Japan. Many smaller nations are linked as allies, as tolerant neighbors or as adversaries in taut military standoffs. Vietnam still has strained relations with China; China and Taiwan maintain a delicate armed truce; North Korea continues to threaten South Korea; China supports North Korea; the United States maintains sizable forces in South Korea while nurturing a strategic relationship with China.

In part by accident, in part by design, this intricate concatenation has acquired remarkable stability. Critical to this stability is the absence of military competition between China and Japan. This favorable condition depends to a large extent on the American-Japanese alliance. Consequently, in looking to the future, it would be a mistake to regard this alliance exclusively as a protection against a Soviet adversary. If the American-Japanese alliance were ended, the strategic architecture of the region would be unhinged.

The American-Japanese alliance has helped to keep dormant the question of the "balance" or "imbalance" between the military forces of Japan and China. This is no minor matter. Communist China has been involved in armed hostilities with many of its neighbors: India, the Soviet Union, South Korea, and even communist Vietnam, although China had vigorously supported North Vietnam throughout its protracted war with the United States. It is particularly relevant for Japan's defense planners that China's relationship with India, a nonaligned power, remains burdened by chronic military confrontation. The Sino-Indian arms competition should be a warning to those in Japan who think that phasing out the alliance with the United States will improve relations with China.

China's history in this century is itself deeply cleft by discontinuities. Its various rulers have launched grand programs, again and again, designed to reshape the nation's identity and restore its cohesion. Yet China has failed to develop the self-renewing democratic institutions that have enabled other nations to modernize and adapt to change. A new cleavage in the Chinese national identity seems almost inevitable, given that its present rulers rely on an imported ideology that has been discarded by most other nations and still seek to rally their people around alien symbols. The Middle Kingdom cannot long continue to idolize discredited Russian dictators and a bearded, bookish, nineteenth-century German.

A critical question for Japan's long-term strategy is whether China can contain this inner restlessness. The repression in China unleashed in June 1989 has greatly unsettled Japanese public opinion. Many Japanese now recognize that developments in China could mean new security problems for their own nation, ranging from Chinese refugees to a militarist, expansionist phase of China's foreign policy. There are examples in the past of major agrarian nations transforming themselves into industrial powers and embarking on policies of imperial expansion: Britain, France, the United States and Germany in the nineteenth century, and Japan itself and the Soviet Union in the twentieth century.

Other developments in the region will create additional challenges for Japanese security strategy. The eventual demise of the anachronistic communist dictatorship in Pyongyang will surely bring about the unification of the Korean peninsula-unless Beijing intervenes with its own brand of the "Brezhnev Doctrine." A unified Korea might well continue, albeit in a slow and perhaps ambiguous manner, the nuclear weapons program it would inherit from the North. Strategic changes must also be expected for the Philippines. The Soviet threat has been the justification for U.S. bases there, but reduction in the American military presence seems probable, and could even lead to a partial abandonment of these bases within the decade. This development will make the political and social instability of the Philippines a more direct concern for Japan.

For three decades both Washington and Tokyo have framed the American-Japanese alliance almost exclusively in terms of the Soviet threat. In the future, however, this alliance is likely to play an important role for Japan's security relations with other powers in the region as well.


Japan's grand strategy will also need to acquire a global dimension. A nation regarded as one of the world's wealthiest and economically most powerful is liable to become the target of envy, resentment and even overtly hostile acts from nearly any quarter of the globe. The United States discovered in the 1970s that, quite independent of its Soviet adversary, other nations, such as Libya or faraway Iran, could inflict considerable harm on American prestige and citizens. The essence of a national security strategy is to prepare for a wide range of plausible contingencies, not simply the immediate concerns of today.

Warfare among distant countries could cause disastrous repercussions in Japan and elsewhere. A war in the Middle East, for example, could lead to a drought of oil from the Persian Gulf region, severely crippling Japan's economy. This danger exists even today, and of course also confronts Western Europe and the United States. Additionally, technological and demographic trends portend changes in the military topography of the world. New areas may rise on the global map as centers of military power and as potential sources of aggression. Even today several nations, primarily in the Middle East, are beginning to manufacture chemical weapons capable of inflicting dreadful civilian and military casualties. Moreover, the world arms trade is becoming more diffuse as a growing number of countries build up their arms industries. Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, India and North Korea are just some of the new suppliers to the world arms market.

Even if NATO and the Warsaw Pact agree to massive arms reductions, countries elsewhere are likely to maintain or build up strong military forces. Such military strength could not only provide considerable immunity from retaliatory responses but might also be used to launch expeditionary forces to distant places. Vietnamese forces, for example, have moved into Cambodia and Laos. India's huge and still-growing military establishment will give that country a dominant strategic role from the Strait of Malacca to the Horn of Africa. Moreover, the Soviet Union or perhaps China might lend substantial support to some of these emerging military powers.

In addition to the diffusion of military technology, demographic trends may create new sources of conflict in many regions of the world. According to World Bank forecasts, by the year 2025 India's population will number close to 1.4 billion, Indonesia's population close to 280 million, and Egypt and the Philippines 100 million each. In many areas, deep-rooted ethnic hostilities will further exacerbate these population pressures. Such conditions will build up tensions that may at times lead to terribly destructive wars, driven by fanatical ideology or aggressive religious fundamentalism.

The citizens of Japan are keenly aware that their nation's economy is highly dependent on events in faraway regions. But they tend to see the military security of their nation in a more narrow, regional context. Although an island nation, Japan is no more immune to worldwide security threats than, say, Britain. Indeed, with its high population density, intricate infrastructure, worldwide financial links and dependence on imported oil, Japan would seem to be more vulnerable than most other industrialized nations.

While some Japanese would turn to the United Nations for security solutions or seek to go it alone, these ideas would prove largely ineffective. For the foreseeable future it is unlikely that the United Nations could deter armed attacks by determined aggressors. The penchant among some Japanese to look to the United Nations for protection of their global security interests would be unlikely to survive the first crisis that put the power of the United Nations to the test. Equally unrealistic would be an attempt by Japan to provide this protection alone. In this age of advanced weaponry and global interconnection, an autarkic security strategy is an unattractive alternative to a system of alliances. If the need for allies holds true for the United States and the European Community, it is particularly compelling for Japan, given its small territory and vulnerable economy. An isolationist defense strategy would lack a necessary global reach and the capabilities of a strong coalition.

For the near term the alliance with the United States is Japan's best link to a global security structure. By the end of the 1990s a trilateral security system may emerge among the European Community, the United States and Japan that would reflect existing financial alliances.


No matter how lasting the recent transformation of Europe and its effect on Asia and future arms control agreements, the dangers posed by nuclear weapons cannot be entirely eliminated. Japan's long-term security strategy cannot escape the continued existence of nuclear arsenals.

The nuclear strategy of the United States will be altered by the recent changes in Europe. This, in turn, will alter the role of nuclear weapons in the Asian-Pacific area. For forty years Western Europe has dominated America's nuclear strategy and the development of American nuclear forces. NATO has been the fulcrum and lever moving U.S. nuclear strategy. The U.S.-Japanese alliance, meanwhile, has had no such influence. A Soviet invasion of West Germany seemed far more possible than an invasion of Japan, and the defense of Western Europe against conventional attack seemed to require backing by nuclear forces in a way that the defense of Japan did not.

NATO has also played a far more important role than the U.S.-Japanese alliance in the evolution of nuclear arms control. During protracted negotiations on intermediate-range nuclear forces, it was by no means assured that the U.S.-proposed ban on Soviet SS-20s would cover Asia. It took a strong stand by U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to overcome those in the U.S. government who sought a quick agreement by allowing the Soviets to keep these missiles in Asia. Finally in 1987 President Reagan reaffirmed, and Gorbachev agreed, that the ban on intermediate-range missiles be global.

The Japanese government has wisely refrained from becoming enmeshed in the abstract questions and theoretical assertions of nuclear strategy that have bedeviled NATO councils. The American-Japanese alliance is disentangled from the long-contentious NATO debates on modernizing short-range missiles and from the convoluted and essentially unsolvable questions of "nuclear coupling," "flexible response," "tactical forces" and "first use." Free of such scholastic baggage, the Japanese are now able to chart a more fundamental and forward-looking approach to the long-term problems posed by the existence of nuclear weapons.

Japan's position on nuclear arms is, of course, shaped by its history; August 1945 continues to exert a strong influence on its nuclear policy. National sentiment against nuclear arms found expression in the mid-1960s in Tokyo's affirmation that Japan will not possess, manufacture or allow the introduction of nuclear weapons into its country. Since that time Japanese public opinion has changed little, and the expressed views of Japanese governments have largely been confined to arms control aspects. Vague references to the American nuclear guarantee have had to satisfy any possible questions regarding nuclear threats. Absent have been the accusatory doubts of De Gaulle's France that the U.S. nuclear guarantee was unreliable, or the anxiety of West Germany that such a guarantee would see the nation turned into a nuclear battlefield while the superpowers remained sanctuaries.

For Tokyo the American nuclear guarantee has provided not only a shield from nuclear threats but also an excuse for avoiding the abhorrent questions of the nuclear age. The somewhat aloof passivity of Japan toward the workings of nuclear deterrence may continue for several years, since the salience of nuclear issues in Japan may diminish as a result of new arms agreements. For decades to come, however, Japan will have to coexist with nuclear-armed countries.

Japan will remain one of the world's richest nations, enmeshed in the affairs of every continent through its expanding economic interests. Among non-nuclear nations, it will be the strongest economically, technologically and, potentially, militarily. It will possess the scientific and industrial wherewithal to become a major nuclear power of intercontinental reach. With such global influence and military weight, Japan will affect the nuclear strategies of other powers simply by virtue of its existence. It cannot escape playing an important role in the worldwide dynamic of nuclear deterrence and of latent or actual nuclear threats. The question, then, is not whether Japan will play a role in global nuclear strategy, but what kind of role it will play.

Japan need not spell out this role in detail right now. Given the turbulence and profound uncertainty in the Soviet Union, the attempt would be premature. Should the East-West confrontation in Europe continue to melt away, however, many European political leaders would begin to reject the intellectual edifice of the West's nuclear strategy as obsolete. The almost exclusively bipolar view of nuclear deterrence that has prevailed for forty years would be displaced by strategic concepts better suited to potential nuclear threats from several countries and a wider range of contingencies. Such an evolution fits Japan's long-term security needs well, since the future strategic environment in the Asian-Pacific region is unlikely ever to be as starkly bipolar as was its European counterpart. The proximity of two independent nuclear powers-the Soviet Union and China-and potential shifts in China's political position between the United States and the Soviet Union place Japan at the vortex of multipolar nuclear relations.

But how can Japan develop a grand strategy appropriate for the nuclear age, given its history and its public's feelings about nuclear weapons? Some Japanese advocate minimizing their country's security ties with the United States or even becoming nonaligned, though definitely without nuclear arms. The proponents of nonalignment believe that Japan's conventionally armed Self-Defense Forces and its industrial power would always suffice to protect the nation. Such a policy of total military self-reliance would risk stirring up latent military tensions with its neighbors. Additionally, it leaves Japan without a long-term answer to nuclear threats from Moscow, Beijing or a new nuclear power, perhaps a united Korea.

Were Tokyo to face a nuclear crisis in the future, it could not suddenly improvise an adequate response. It is easier to leave an alliance than to find one in the midst of a crisis. The American public and the U.S. Congress would likely hesitate to brave a renewed foreign entanglement-under a nuclear threat-by rescuing a Japan that had previously spurned its alliance with the United States. There might be sympathy in Washington, as there was for France in 1940, but little help.

Even less plausible is that Japan would become a nonaligned nuclear power. Such a policy might well induce several countries in the region to form an alliance against Japan. Moreover, the decision to build an independent nuclear force would have to overcome deeply embedded opposition from the nation's own people. A change of attitude would likely require a cataclysmic event. Even then it would take some ten years or more to build a survivable nuclear force. If the decision were taken in response to a sudden threat to the nation, that ten-year delay would be far too long.

It is puzzling to fathom what the prominent Diet member Shintaro Ishihara had in mind when he recently asserted that a security system to meet Japanese needs could be built by Japan alone. Would such a solitary strategy include or exclude nuclear weapons? Neither alternative could be achieved without inflicting serious harm to Japan's standing in the region and without diminishing Japan's security.

By preserving the alliance with the United States, Japan will do more than maintain an "insurance policy" against nuclear crisis. The alliance gives Tokyo the option to become more actively engaged in great-power strategy and in global nuclear arms control. Tokyo, for instance, decided in 1986 to participate in the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative by allowing its companies to conduct research under contract with the U.S. Defense Department. The fact that the effort was intended for defensive systems, not offensive nuclear missiles, helped to make it consonant with Japan's non-nuclear policy. Moreover, the broad rationale with which President Reagan promoted strategic defense appealed to Japan's antinuclear sentiment. Even though the U.S. strategic defense program has since become less ambitious, Tokyo's decision to participate in it suggests a direction in which a more active Japanese role in global nuclear strategy might evolve.

The crucial role of the American-Japanese alliance in the nuclear dimension can best be preserved by maintaining a sense of trust and meaningful links between the two nations. The presence in Japan of U.S. bases and armed forces provides a military and political link understood by both friend and foe. Maintaining some U.S. forces in Japan serves the interests of both nations. It is a disincentive to nuclear proliferation and a deterrent to nuclear threats. For Japanese worried about the asymmetrical nature of the alliance with the United States, an increase in the Japanese military's use of bases in the American southwest for tests and exercises would be welcomed. Further technological cooperation for the common defense, including air defense and ballistic missile defense, would also help, as would increased Japanese intellectual participation in the shaping of global nuclear strategies.

Far into the future, however, the American-Japanese alliance will combine unequal roles for the two partners. Japan will need to rely on the strategic nuclear forces of the United States to deter any use of nuclear weapons against it; the United States will have to rely on Japan to help maintain a secure world order, to cooperate on advanced military technologies, and to keep those technologies from potential enemies.

Tokyo has emphatically stressed for four decades that Japan's slowly growing national security effort was for self-defense, meaning that its forces would only fight an aggressor on, or in the immediate vicinity of, the Japanese islands. This maxim has been beneficial for Japan's domestic politics and reassuring for its neighbors. In the decades to come, Japan will share with other leading democracies a continuing and vital interest in preserving a peaceful world order. The time may thus come for Japan to shift its strategic emphasis from self-defense, and from the growing connotation of a certain "selfishness," to one of co-responsibility for the defense of a global security system.


In every dimension of Japan's strategic security-regional, global and nuclear-its alliance with the United States will play an important role. The test of any military alliance comes when a new contingency requires a common response. The Japanese-American alliance is potentially more flexible than NATO because, as a multilateral alliance, NATO requires consensus among its many member states and must overcome the resistance of its own bureaucracy.

This structural difference is reinforced by differences in the geographic scope and basic defense policy of the two alliances. For America and Japan their alliance is less circumscribed in geographic scope than NATO. This difference is reflected in the language of the two treaties. The 1960 treaty between the United States and Japan refers to the parties' common concern in maintaining peace and security in the "Far East"-a broad and somewhat undefined region. The North Atlantic Treaty, by contrast, limits its scope to the principal territories of the member states, plus their forces deployed in specified ocean areas. There is no mention in the NATO treaty of possible common actions to maintain peace and security beyond these territorial confines.

More significant than differences in treaty language is the political-military tradition of each alliance. The history of the U.S.-Japanese alliance includes periods of cooperation against adversaries other than the Soviet Union. NATO's exclusive focus on a Warsaw Pact threat that is no longer plausible may hinder the now necessary transformation of NATO into an alliance of broader scope. For the American-Japanese alliance, given its more diversified history and more flexible treaty, it should be easier to transcend its recent preoccupation with the Soviet forces facing Hokkaido.

At times NATO has acknowledged hesitantly that it might face other threats to its common interests, for example, in the Persian Gulf. Whenever Washington sought common action for such contingencies, however, it was forced to proceed bilaterally with European capitals, outside the alliance structure. When the Iran-Iraq War began to threaten international shipping in the Persian Gulf, NATO did not take any action as a multilateral alliance. On a purely bilateral basis, however, the United States was able to persuade Britain, France, the Netherlands and West Germany to lend support to American efforts. Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone also recognized that Japan shared a common interest with the United States and Western Europe in free navigation through the gulf. Because of internal opposition, however, Tokyo rejected even token assistance by Japanese naval forces, opting instead to make a payment toward the costs incurred by the United States.

Future Japanese participation in global security operations would not have to rely on naval capabilities alone. Space-based communications and intelligence capabilities complement navies and air forces in projecting power at a distance. In the 21st century these space capabilities will play an even greater role. Japan clearly has the scientific and industrial capability to use outer space for all these functions and it is increasingly active in the development of space technology.

The role that Japan might play in a global security coalition is mainly a political question and, one might add, a question of intellectual development in Tokyo. It seems unlikely that Japan's body politic would remain content through the end of this decade to see the nation a mere bystander on matters that affect the strategic order of the world. The ongoing strategic revolution in the center of Europe is bound to raise new questions in Japan about the shape and purpose of Japan's own national defense effort. Thoughtful people will realize, or rediscover, how profoundly Japan's security can be affected by threats to peace throughout the world.


Twice in this nuclear age the Japanese government has shown that it can develop and carry out a forward-looking national security strategy. In 1957, five years after the end of the Allied occupation, Tokyo reaffirmed its commitment to the American alliance and to a slow expansion of its military capabilities. This strategy was designed for the bipolar world of the Cold War. Later, in 1976, Tokyo developed a new plan in response to the East-West détente and the American-Chinese rapprochement. By calling for broader roles for Japan's defense forces-for example the protection of nearby sea-lanes and airspace-this plan also provided the strategic concepts for Japan's military buildup of the 1980s.

These past plans cannot guide Japan's security strategy through the 1990s and into the 21st century. The Japanese government will be forced by its own administrative procedures to develop a new long-term defense plan. The current Midterm Defense Plan, a document that outlines defense budgets and programs for a five-year period, ends within a year. By March 1991 the objectives set down in 1976 will be accomplished, and Tokyo could soon be without an articulated policy for its defense budgets.

The year-to-year decisions in Tokyo on defense spending are normally worked out among the bureaucracies of the Foreign Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Defense Agency. Within the framework of a broader plan this process has worked effectively. It cannot, however, develop the new grand strategy now called for. It is even doubtful that the task could be handled by Japan's Security Council, chaired by the prime minister and composed of the heads of the government's key departments and agencies. This council would be more likely to review and decide on a draft plan prepared by a high-level ad hoc commission, perhaps with inputs from the Research Committee on Security of the Liberal Democratic Party. The Maekawa commission that charted economic policies in 1986 suggests what an ad hoc group with strong political backing can accomplish. Additionally, given the key role of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, consultations between Tokyo and Washington would be essential in shaping Japan's future strategy.

If you do not know where you are sailing, every wind will take you there. Without a long-term strategy the powerful U.S.-Japanese alliance, Japan's own defense effort and, indeed, Japan's direction in the world would be without chart or compass. Instead, domestic politics in Tokyo and Washington would seek to set the course, and political fads and demagogy would fill the agenda. The United States should withdraw all its forces from Japan, some would argue; others would advocate that Japan build nuclear weapons or sell missiles to East and West; still others would insist that America and Japan are destined to become military adversaries. In democratic governance a strategic vacuum invites mischief.

  • Fred Charles Iklé is affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and was Undersecretary of Defense for Policy in the Reagan administration. Terumasa Nakanishi is Professor of International Relations at the University of Shizuoka and research associate at the Research Institute for Peace & Security, Tokyo.
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