Three events occurred in Japan in 1977 that make it absolutely clear that the long period of postwar dependence on the United States, and Japan's corollary "low posture" in international affairs, have come to an end. While their implications will affect all aspects of Japan-U.S. relations in the Pacific, it is in Southeast Asia that Japan's new posture initially will pose important questions for the United States. These three events, beginning with the broadest changes in Japan's thinking, were the 1977 White Paper on Defense - a document that for the first time expresses doubts about the future U.S.-Soviet strategic balance; a Foreign Ministry White Paper that represents a genuine departure in foreign policy thinking; and the tour of Japan's Prime Minister to Southeast Asia - the occasion for the announcement of a "Fukuda Doctrine" toward the area.

The 1977 White Paper on Defense would be notable under any circumstances because it followed within a year a similar publication, and the Defense Agency is not in the habit of preparing annual versions of these lengthy documents. Why was another required? In part because of the famous MiG-25 defection of September 1976, which has caused defense planners in Tokyo to question the nation's ability to detect and intercept low-flying aircraft. Accordingly, a long section of the 1977 volume is devoted to Japan's need to modernize her air defense equipment and procedures more rapidly. Of far greater long-term significance, however, is what Japan's defense planners have to say about the central strategic balance:

Since the nuclear capabilities of the Soviet Union are numerically superior to those of the United States and since the Soviet Union is improving the quality of its nuclear arsenal at a rapid tempo, the United States is faced with an urgent task to modernize . . . . Thus, the U.S.S.R. has greatly strengthened its military posture in Europe and the Far East; and as a result some changes are occurring in the military balance between the United States and the Soviet Union and in its structure.1

Allowing for official Japanese caution and tendency to understatement, this passage amounts to a real tremor in Japan's hitherto nearly total faith in the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and of the U.S. defense posture generally.

The second event, the Foreign Ministry White Paper, was also announced during the autumn of 1977. While it contains nothing as bleak as the defense views, it too represents a significant change from the past. Up to now, Japan has carefully cultivated the image that her role in world affairs is through her economic strength, and Tokyo has been a major contributor to a variety of assistance programs. The hallmark has been to separate politics from economics, with almost exclusive emphasis on the latter. Japan has focused her international political role on her relationship with the United States, stressing that the only political activity conceivable might be in some form of a general U.N. effort. Thus, although the tone of the new White Paper is quiet, the message is not:

In order to assure peace and development in international society it is necessary and indispensable that Japan make such contributions commensurate with the wealth and capacity of our country in various fields, not only in the field of international economics, but also in the sphere of politics and the like.2

The third and most specific of these developments was Prime Minister Fukuda's Southeast Asian tour last August. It was notable first because his visit represented a formal endorsement of the five-nation Southeast Asian group known as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Second, on the final stop in Manila, Mr. Fukuda announced a program of $1 billion in support of ASEAN "regional projects." For years, Japan had sought somehow to relate to incipient Southeast Asian efforts in economic cooperation, and for a while tried to sponsor a forum of her own, under the title of the "Ministerial Conference for Economic Development." Tokyo gave up on that effort by 1976, and hoped instead to be invited to the ASEAN "summit" meeting in Bali that year. When Mr. Fukuda was invited to meet with his counterparts in Kuala Lumpur in August 1977, it was a major breakthrough. And in Manila he promised that "Japan will be an equal partner of ASEAN and its member countries."3 It is the sum total of these actions and commitments that comprises what Japanese themselves have christened the Fukuda Doctrine.

The broad meaning of these three events is that Japan has become quite uneasy with her dependent status in international politics, and intends, as a specific result, to establish especially close relations with all the states in Southeast Asia. Much of the unease stems from Japan's growing uncertainty about the future of the U.S. defense role throughout Asia, and this goes well beyond the anxieties over troop withdrawals from South Korea that were described recently in these pages.4 At the heart of the matter lies a nagging fear that the United States - despite its rhetoric and its repeated assurances - really does not regard Japan highly. Much has been written about this elsewhere, especially in the context of the so-called "Nixon shocks" of 1971-72. What needs to be said here is that ever since then many Japanese have interpreted American actions toward China as proof that Peking counts for much more than Tokyo in American eyes. And, although there may be in American eyes very little evidence to support such worries, leading Japanese increasingly and publicly doubt both the long-term reliability and capacity of the United States as guarantor of Japan's security.

Questions about the wisdom of American policy in Asia arose during the Vietnam War. Now that it is over, a substantial proportion of Japan's doubts arise from the present Southeast Asian policy of the United States. Interested Japanese believe that the United States is terminating its interest in the region, and cite two cases as suggestive of the American posture: congressional unwillingness to support "normalization" of ties with Hanoi (even if that means accepting Hanoi's economic assistance terms), and an executive attitude of "indifference" to the economic needs and significance of ASEAN.5 The Japanese argue that Vietnam should be encouraged to maintain distance from both China and the Soviet Union; and ASEAN, they point out, represents precisely the sort of collaborative effort the United States traditionally has favored. Along with the broader doubts about the U.S. role in the Pacific, these are the considerations that led Japan, despite her notoriously slow, faction-ridden, and reactive policymaking process, to announce the Fukuda Doctrine in the summer of 1977.


There is very deep continuity both in Japan's behavior and in her outlook in world politics. Its most general feature is a longstanding dislike for dependence - which in its extreme form resulted in the nationalism and autarky-seeking program of the 1930s.6 More specifically, this continuity is found in a ratchet-like tendency to return to Asia, and especially Southeast Asia, as the principal focus for Japan's activities. In an environment in which Japan finds increasing resistance to her economic activities, Southeast Asia is the one region where the barriers are neither insurmountable nor the competition very stiff. As a result, Southeast Asia has become in the past decade something approaching a Japanese hinterland - whether measured in terms of trade, investment and assistance, or the number of people brought to Japan each year from Southeast Asia for training and education.

While the Left argues that there has been an intent, perhaps even a conspiracy, to create a postwar "sphere of influence" for Japan in Southeast Asia, a good case can be made that this was not Japan's aim - but it happened anyway. In the 1960s, when the leadership was turning its attention to long-term foreign trade and investment, there was a conscious effort to avoid a special relationship with any region. The Japanese Economy in 1985, a projection by the Japan Economic Research Center in 1967, concluded that the trends it foresaw would make it "impossible for Japan to confine her activities to a narrow regional basis and will force her to live as a global nation." In the same period the distinguished economist Saburo Okita wrote that "although Japan is located in Asia and has strong historical and emotional ties with other Asian countries, she will have to act as a global nation rather than as a narrowly confined Asian country."7

Japan, of course, has not become a "narrowly confined" country, but neither has she succeeded in avoiding a clear concentration on Southeast Asia. In investment, her role in Asia is nearly equal (23 percent of the foreign total) to her stake in the United States, and among developing areas Southeast Asia is easily the principal recipient. Private investment in Latin America, which ranks next, is behind Southeast Asia by $1.5 billion - and public investment figures show an even more striking pattern. Of Japan's "official development assistance" (ODA), the following recent statement by the Foreign Ministry tells the whole story:

Japan's economic cooperation policy places great emphasis on Asia, which is a region that has close historical, geographical and economic relationships with Japan. In Japan's bilateral official development assistance in 1976, Southeast Asia accounted for over 56%; Asia as a whole accounted for 77%, and the five ASEAN nations alone accounted for 48%.8

By comparison, the figure for Africa was 6 percent, for the Middle East 7.8 percent, and for Latin America 6.6 percent.

In trade too, Southeast Asia generally has been Japan's second largest partner - ranking behind only the United States. The five ASEAN nations steadily account for 11-12 percent of Japan's total trade, and though many have expected this to decline, it does not.9 With the possible exception of the Middle East, to be mentioned in a moment, no other region is even closely comparable. Japan's total trade with ASEAN alone in 1976 was $14 billion; with all of Latin America it was $7.4 billion, and if current rates of increase are projected forward, they show that Japan's present trade with ASEAN is at a level that will not be reached by that with Latin America until well into the 1980s - if then.10

Of course Japan will aim to export more to the Middle East, hoping to compensate for the extraordinary rise in imports since the oil-price increases of 1973. (Japan's Middle East imports rose from 14 percent in 1972 to 28 percent of her total in 1975). But even in 1975, several years after a Middle East export drive was begun, sales to that entire region had just reached the value exported to the five ASEAN states alone, and it is very debatable whether exports to the Persian Gulf states will continue to show steep growth. Part of the reason is the low population density in the Middle East and the much greater familiarity of its leaders with European and American suppliers and products. More important is the now-formal emphasis, as a result of the Fukuda statements, that Japan will put on Southeast Asia and the ASEAN states in particular. For as every statistic on Japan's economic presence in Southeast Asia indicates, Prime Minister Fukuda was hardly venturing into a new field with his trip. It is no exaggeration to say that the true meaning of the Fukuda Doctrine is simply that Tokyo now acknowledges its special relationship with Southeast Asia.

Concretely, this means that Japan intends to enhance and intensify her already-existing special relationship with Southeast Asia, and that the vehicle will be a large-scale program of bilateral and "regional" loans. In these respects the Fukuda Doctrine is no more than a billion-dollar line of credit, particularly for projects on which the ASEAN group comes to agreement. This line of credit will further reinforce present patterns: like Japan's postwar reparations program, the loans now offered to ASEAN generally will be tied to purchases of Japanese goods and technical services. To the extent that the first wave of Japan's postwar economic presence was facilitated by the reparations program, and can now stand some reinvigoration, the Fukuda Doctrine will provide precisely that second impetus. And it should be added that this effort will have ample public support in Japan, for there is wide agreement that Southeast Asia is the nation's "special responsibility." In the words of a typical comment:

If Northeast Asia is a "military-security" key point for Japan, it can be said that Southeast Asia is a major axis for the "economic security" of Japan. Therefore Japan should not be averse to making the utmost possible contribution to the security of this region.11

Although the Japanese mean, by their "contribution" to Southeast Asian security, Japan's program of "economic cooperation" - itself a euphemism for their loan programs - they intend no humor. In Tokyo's view the American contribution to Asia's security is its military presence, while Japan's is economic. Many Americans probably tend to share this view; the Japanese, after all, are already the dominant economic force in the region, and what is more, this argument runs, nobody wants to encourage Tokyo to become again an independent military factor in Asian politics. Thus it can be argued that it is a wise course for the United States to welcome Japan's economic leadership in Southeast Asia, while reserving for the United States the principal responsibility to assist in the region's security. Recently, in fact, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Richard Holbrooke, was asked about Japan's role in Southeast Asia, and he commented only that:

Japanese economic involvement in the region is simply a fact of life and it isn't something that the U.S. is encouraging or discouraging. What we have done, however, is to tell the Japanese that it is our view that in the long run we hope the Japanese will play a constructive, larger role in terms of economic development.12


Aside from the fact that Japan hardly needs American encouragement to assume such a "larger role," the difficulty with Mr. Holbrooke's view is that it tends to compound a division of responsibility that is not in the American interest, and probably not in Japan's either. Even now, for example, there is no reason to take comfort from a comparison of American and Japanese trade and investment roles in the region, and this is not a matter of Japan's imports alone. Inevitably, resource-poor Japan will purchase more of Southeast Asia's commodities than will the United States, but nothing requires the United States to lag behind as an exporter as well. Yet American exports to ASEAN in 1976, as Secretary of State Vance seemed to point out with pride recently, stood at $3.7 billion13 - while the far smaller Japanese economy sold $6 billion to the same market.

Investment in Southeast Asia, where for the last 30 years the United States has led, shows the same pattern. An economist now with the U.S. Treasury Department wrote in 1974 that "in every country the gap between U.S. and Japanese investment has been narrowed, if not turned around."14 By now that certainly has happened, and the reason is the very steep rate of increase in Japan's investment role in the area. In Singapore, for example, in the period 1970-76, American investments more than tripled - but those from Japan increased almost eightfold.15 In Indonesia alone Japan's investments stand at more than $2 billion; this is probably already greater than the American investment presence, and will soon be much larger.16 In a six-month period in 1976, according to Indonesia's Investment Board, investments from Japan rose by $50 million, while those from the United States in the same period increased by $11 million.

There has been, in other words, an explosion of Japanese trade and investment effort in a region that to Americans represents the scene of a military defeat and political uncertainty, but to Japan represents a field day for good business. And the Japanese analysis, it has to be said, is the more accurate, for Southeast Asia is the world's fastest-growing developing region, and the economic record of the ASEAN group is particularly impressive. Its rate of trade growth, at 32 percent in 1970-74, was higher than the world average, and was second only to the oil-exporting states. Its population is expected to increase from a present 230 million to 290 million in 1985, and its very creditable per capita annual growth rates (of about four percent)17 show that population increases are being reasonably well managed. In brief, ASEAN represents a large and attractive market, attentively nurtured by Japan but given much less attention by Americans. Two years ago John K. Emmerson, writing from the perspective of a lifetime devoted to observing Japan-U.S. relations, said that: "We may be about to witness a new burst of Japanese energy in Southeast Asia. American businessmen may be hard put to compete."18 He was emphatically right.

Where the United States has maintained its posture has been in its security role, for despite the rhetoric about military disengagement, the reality is that the United States maintains a high defense stance in East Asia. In its military role, it has been urged to stay on by states as wide apart ideologically as Mainland China and Indonesia. Leaders in Japan, Malaysia, and in the Philippines have made the same point, though President Marcos (up to the last few months) has spoken quite differently in public. All have expressed the view that a combination of American diffidence about Asian security, along with what they see as heightened Soviet leverage in the area, will alter the basic power structure in the Pacific. They have accordingly trooped to Washington to make the point put by Prime Minister Lee of Singapore on a recent American visit: "There is no counter to a Soviet naval vessel other than a United States naval vessel."

For a variety of reasons, including plain resistance to change, the United States has responded to these appeals, and Asian fears of impending American military weakness in the Pacific are both exaggerated and premature. The story of the Korean troop withdrawals is illustrative, as President Carter knows best of all. In response to urgent appeals from Tokyo as well as Seoul, there will be a lengthy stretch-out in the Korean troop reduction, and only 6,000 are being sent home now. Similarly, in the Philippines, although the status quo concerning the U.S. bases there has been seriously questioned in the Senate, the Navy is strongly opposed to significant change and none is likely. Likewise, when a group of Japanese opposition-party members (from Komeito) met recently with Defense Secretary Brown, and reported that he mentioned "other withdrawals in the Western Pacific," Mr. Brown issued an immediate denial, and went so far as to ask for a retraction. And on February 20, 1978, Secretary Brown devoted a major speech in Los Angeles to plans for strengthening the U.S. strategic posture in Asia and upgrading the Pacific Fleet.

In East Asia generally, such reassurances are important. But in Southeast Asia American policies may have become so heavily involved with security that they threaten to lose sight of the interests that defense policies are intended to protect.

For an American foreign policy, dependent ultimately on public acceptance and support, this raises questions of balance. Until recently, the U.S. presence in the Pacific has been evident across a wide spectrum: in assistance, in trade and investment, in education and cultural effort, and in defense. Now there has been a decline in most of those roles, with only defense remaining a high-priority official concern. The result, accelerated and reinforced by Tokyo's own initiatives, is that Japan increasingly is the dominant presence in economic as well as other activities, while present trends will leave the United States with its military role in Southeast Asia the foremost aspect of the American presence.

If that develops, it has to be questioned whether Americans, in the absence of other functions, will accept the role of principal buttressing power in the Pacific - particularly since within the United States the constituencies that might argue for a broad-gauged American role are themselves in decline. In addition to the falloff in American business activity relative to Japan's role, there is of course disenchantment with development-related assistance programs, and there are few other elements in American society to urge any emphasis in Asia other than defense. Our colleges and universities already have given up much of their "foreign" emphasis, and Asian and all other areas of international studies have suffered. Were it not for Japanese industry gifts to Harvard, Yale, and Pittsburgh, and the wide support of the Japan Foundation, our ability to participate knowledgeably in Pacific developments already would be drastically impaired. With perhaps the exception of the single-issue Amnesty International, and the congressionally mandated State Department reports on human rights, no American voice today calls effectively for continued American concern with anything in Asia other than defense.

The prospect this holds out is not a good one for either the United States or Japan, or for the Southeast Asian states themselves. One aspect is the continuing fear in Southeast Asia that Japan will again become the exclusively dominant state in the region. The Japanese well remember the "Tanaka riots" of 1974 - anti-Japanese demonstrations in Indonesia and Thailand at the time of the former Prime Minister's visits. While that sentiment has cooled - and those demonstrations in particular had important indigenous causes - they were facilitated by a local sense of Japan's "over-presence," and Tokyo is anxious to avoid rekindling this attitude. Developments that might lead to a too-exclusive role for Japan in the region are recognized, at least in the Foreign Office, as not in the nation's interests.

A second drawback is that Southeast Asia may come to figure in the differences on trade policy that already are such a nagging strain between Tokyo and Washington. Until recently, most complaints about Japan focused on damage to U.S. business at home, but a much older issue - the difficulties that American products face in Japan's market - has again surfaced. It is a potentially explosive issue, because protectionism in Japan is even more politically sacrosanct than in the United States. Americans should recognize that their products do encounter sales problems in Japan that do not derive from Tokyo's official policies (such as markedly different tastes and distribution patterns), but the ruling Liberal Democratic Party believes that the hard core of its electoral base rests on a number of very well-protected agricultural enterprises and industries, and it will resist in every way any true "liberalization" of Japan's imports. Consequently, while the agreement reached by Messrs. Strauss and Ushiba in Tokyo in January 1978 should be welcomed, it must also be recognized that only a persistent, steady, and quite intensive effort from outside has a chance to persuade Japan to adopt a genuine free trade posture in the foreseeable future - and only then if there is no practical alternative available. No prior challenge to Japan's protectionism has been successful; the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, on the day after the Strauss-Ushiba communiqué on January 13, remarked that "Japan's basic line remains completely unchanged, even if the expression has changed."19 This and much other evidence suggests caution about the early openness of Japan's market that can be expected. As it becomes evident that American business will face increasing difficulties in the growing Southeast Asian market - owing largely to Japan's role - one likely result is even more anti-Japanese protectionist sentiment in the United States.

Yet both Japanese and American leaders seem oblivious to the dangers of their growing and too-neat division of labor in Southeast Asia. It is typified, for example, by the irony that while Japan under the Fukuda Doctrine will be extending a profitable $1 billion line of credit to ASEAN, the United States will be providing continued economic and military assistance to the Philippines, related substantially to the American defense presence there.20 This is not to suggest that U.S. defense spending is "unproductive," nor do I want to argue the equally simplistic notion that Japan has a "free ride." The benefits realized from defense spending must always be assessed with a yardstick different from the one used to measure other social costs. Similarly, there are many cases where defense obligations need not and often ought not be shared equally, and the need to avoid Japan's rearmament is one of them. The issue is instead one of balance, for both American and Japanese postures in the Pacific are now becoming grossly imbalanced.

For the United States, the need is to avoid policies that simply acquiesce in - or even worse reinforce - Japan's economic dominance in the region. For Japan the need is to find ways that will contribute more genuinely both to the security and development needs of the area. This is neither a call for Japan's rearmament nor is it a call for the United States, in order to justify a significant defense involvement in the Southeast Asian region, to insist on directly equivalent trade and investment benefits. Americans have many times undertaken long-haul efforts, both in Europe and Asia, that would not have been justified by the wrong-headed notion of classical Marxism that great powers go only where their markets and profits dictate. But at some point even the most dedicated non-Marxist leader must be able to defend strategic and political policies with persuasive evidence that the well-being of his people is being seen to by those policies. If present trends continue, American leaders will not be able to make that case for Southeast Asia, and in an environment in which Americans increasingly are aware of Japan's economic activities, the "free ride" thesis is certain to gain new attention.


There is of course no certain cure for this condition, but it is possible to outline a policy that will do better than now to protect the interests of all concerned, improve the balance in American policy, and be more likely to hold American public support. Such a policy should be based on two assumptions: first, that a strong and genuine U.S.-Japan partnership is fundamental to all else in the Pacific, and second, that economic and security elements cannot be separated. There are three issues presently facing the United States in Southeast Asia that illustrate this approach, that need attention in any case, and that will be explored here: American policy toward ASEAN; the question of the U.S. bases in the Philippines; and the issue of policy toward Vietnam.

With regard to ASEAN, U.S. policy seems limited to generalized endorsements and vague assurances, conveyed most recently by Under Secretary of State Richard Cooper in Manila last August, that the American market will be open to ASEAN's commodity and other exports. In the light of President Carter's decision, in November 1977, to raise tariffs on imported sugar, even that has to be doubted. The January 1978 visit to Tokyo by AID Administrator John Gilligan provided an opportunity to devote thought to concrete coordination with Japan, but the meetings instead reinforced Tokyo's view that no clear U.S. posture toward ASEAN has yet emerged.

To be sure, Washington has now announced that a meeting with ASEAN representatives will be held there in June, and this could be more than a symbolic gesture. But American policy still falls well short of the program of firm American support for ASEAN urged as far back as 1975 by Senator Jacob Javits, and the contrast between American diffidence and Japan's strong cultivation of the ASEAN economies was rightly noted in December by James Reston.21

The problem is how to elevate the U.S. role in acceptable ways, and at the same time improve the U.S. posture vis-à-vis Japan. One approach to this end would be to consider as candidates for joint Japan-U.S. support the five major agro-industrial projects on which ASEAN is now focusing. Although the Japanese one-billion-dollar line of credit has not been allocated, it is thought of in the region as a $200 million loan for each of the five efforts - ranging in present thinking from the production of soda ash in Thailand to urea in Malaysia, with an understanding on avoiding duplication among ASEAN nations.22

Projects of this sort could provide a concrete opportunity for close Japan-U.S. collaboration in a way that reinforces indigenous plans. The most suitable vehicle to achieve this would be to extend the already-existing format of Japan-U.S. consultations (dealing now with defense and bilateral trade), to include funding for the ASEAN projects as well. Nothing like this now exists, and it is quite certain that Japan's recent initiatives to ASEAN - like the Fukuda Doctrine itself - were undertaken with only the most minimal advance consultation with the United States.

A joint effort with Japan in support of ASEAN's regional projects is surely not beyond the capacity of the United States, even in this era of reduced AID budgets and skepticism toward foreign assistance. A program of credits, similar to Japan's offer of one billion dollars in interest-payable loans, is probably the most practical format, and is consistent with the present level of American efforts in the region. If we assume that the five ASEAN projects will extend over five years, U.S. credits to them might amount to some $50-100 million in each year. Nor is there any reason to expect such a program to be restricted to government loans. Japan's is not, and the viability of the projects (Tokyo insists that their "feasibility" must be demonstrated to the lender's satisfaction) is likely to make them attractive to private investment.

Such a program would have decent prospects for American support, for Congress has not been standoffish to a regional group like ASEAN. Moreover, and unlike the "multilateral" funding programs that are disliked in Congress, the U.S. role here would not be minimized, or otherwise hidden. The necessary practical step is for the United States to propose to Japan, and to ASEAN, that for every regional project of significance, Washington will consider joining with Tokyo (and perhaps with such others as Australia) in joint funding support. Some in Japan will resist this further notion, but it should also be part of an American proposal to insist upon a non-tied basis for loans extended, so that American firms will have the same opportunity as Japanese contractors to participate. To do otherwise, and in particular for the United States to acquiesce in a Japan-only program of support for ASEAN, will be to reduce the prospects for American business in Southeast Asia, and ultimately to reinforce the present pattern.


American bases in the Philippines represent the second issue on which an evolving U.S. policy is desirable. After the collapse of South Vietnam, the Philippines insisted on a renegotiation of existing base agreements (which expire in 1991), and for a time in late 1976 it appeared that Secretary Kissinger was ready to commit the United States to a billion-dollar program of military and economic aid, over five years, associated directly with the bases in a form approximating the rental the United States has provided over the years for its extensive base rights in Spain. Through 1975 and 1976, President Marcos - whether as a bargaining tactic or for more basic reasons - repeatedly made public statements questioning the value of the bases to the Philippines, doubting the validity of the American treaty commitment to the security of the Philippines, and broadly hinting that the Philippines were considering "alternative uses" for the base areas.

During 1977 the atmosphere seemed to change markedly - perhaps partly because the Philippines have been under much clearer pressure from the Carter Administration over the continued application of martial law and suppression of democratic practices and human rights. With the executive no longer fighting critical segments of the Congress on these issues, but instead putting on its own pressure, the chances of congressional approval of a large "base rental" agreement must now appear minimal to all parties. A second major factor may be the continuing security problem in Mindanao. Apparently Marcos needs - at least for the time being - a clear and visible American connection, more than he was prepared to admit 18 months ago.

At any rate, he has been singing a different tune in the past year - far less critical of the United States, far more ready (apparently) to recognize that the bases do, after all, involve spending that may amount to as much as five percent of his country's GNP, no longer raising public doubts whether the bases would be available in all foreseeable crises. And in the negotiations themselves the stress so far has been on markedly increasing the visible evidence of their Philippine character - through having a Filipino as base commander, among other moves, with American officers in command of designated American activities - and on reducing the area especially of the vast air base at Clark Field. It now appears likely that whatever American military and economic aid may be planned or committed for the future, it will be far less than the one-billion-dollar five-year deal being aired in 1976, and probably dissociated to a considerable extent from the actual base agreement.

These changes in atmosphere and negotiating approach are to the good. But it should not be thought for a moment that any new base agreement - assuming it is both agreed and ratified by the Congress - would simply maintain the old status quo into the future. The military need for the bases, the enlisting of regional support for their retention, and conceivably the devising of some cost-sharing arrangement involving the Japanese at least indirectly - all these should be the subjects of continuing study and effort.

For the present, there can be no question that the bases serve important purposes both military and psychological. Given the doubts in Japan and in some other parts of Asia about the future reliability of the U.S. presence, any unilateral American withdrawal from the Philippine bases could only be sharply destabilizing at least for the next several years, from a psychological standpoint alone. Militarily the bases play an important role not only with reference to the Western Pacific but also as the most reliable way station to the Indian Ocean. Finally, the naval facilities at Subic Bay perform major functions for the Pacific Fleet as a whole, being by far the cheapest overhaul and drydock facilities available.

Whether these needs will persist into the indefinite future is, however, doubtful. The Navy's reduced emphasis on carriers (as compared to submarines, which use Subic far less) and the apparent expansion of Diego Garcia are bound to raise questions. Most basically, with the experience of 1973 in Europe (including Spain) fresh in mind, one is bound to have long-term doubts about whether the bases will be reliably available in some conceivable crises. Although Marcos has now changed his line, his appeals to nationalist and anti-American sentiment could be renewed at any time he feels less vulnerable (or thinks he sees useful friends elsewhere). Many in Manila do resent the bases and feel that the United States has too long had a bargain at Filipino expense.

All these considerations suggest that any new agreement with the Philippines should be seen for no more than what it is: an accommodation reluctantly arrived at, and with the famous "good will" toward Americans much less to be counted on these days. This ought not to be considered a reliable foundation for U.S. policy. It would be prudent instead to bring more certainty to American assumptions about the Philippine bases, and useful to attempt that in a format that does not imply higher unilateral U.S. defense expenditures - if we want to avoid the hardening "division of labor" in the Pacific that I have already mentioned.

This is an issue that can properly be discussed by the United States with the ASEAN states. While it can be assumed that all in ASEAN want to retain an American naval presence in the region, the group has been committed since its founding to the view that "foreign military bases are temporary in nature" and must be removed. The inconsistency of the Philippines' position - as an ASEAN charter member with U.S. bases - is evident to all in this, and frankly placing this on an ASEAN-U.S. agenda would have several uses. Among other things, a more open ASEAN recognition of the desirability of the U.S. bases would help to reduce Manila's susceptibility to the charge that its independence is diluted by the American presence.

More than that, discussion of the relationship of the bases to regional security can also provide an opportunity to discuss Japan's role, for it should not be thought that there is total aversion to all forms of Japanese participation in these issues. Mr. Marcos himself said recently that Japan's defense improvements are not resented these days, and in 1973 Prime Minister Lee of Singapore even suggested that Japan - along with Australia - participate in a Pacific-region "task force." No doubt that goes too far, but it is evident that even while Japan strongly desires that the Philippine bases be retained, Tokyo contributes in no way to their cost. Even at Yokosuka and elsewhere in Japan, the present degree of "cost-sharing" between Tokyo and Washington is disadvantageous to the United States; while hard figures are notoriously difficult to come by, the evidence of Japanese and American officials in Tokyo suggests that of the approximately one billion dollars expended by the United States for its Japanese defense presence, much less than half is shared by Japan.23

The U.S. bases in the Philippines need to be considered in that light, taking into account both the role they play in bolstering the sense of American presence in the region, and the share of Pacific-region defense costs that are now borne solely by the United States. What needs to be explored is a form of Japan-U.S. cost-sharing based on a more explicit recognition that these installations, rather than being an American imposition, are widely wanted. That is the crucial element, both in better assuring that American access to the bases can be relied on, and in helping to overcome the view that any assistance from Japan would contravene Article IX of its Constitution, limiting Japan to self-defense.

Greater legitimacy for the Philippine bases, among both Japan and the ASEAN states, would help to reduce their present image as a solely U.S. responsibility, in which therefore the United States must continue alone to bear all the costs. To accept such an image is to be resigned to the present division of labor, in which Japan's "contribution" to Asian security is measured in terms of development loans ultimately payable to the Bank of Japan, while that of the United States is in military assistance grants and a growing defense budget.


The final case to be mentioned - the matter of U.S. relations with Vietnam - needs to be identified not because it warrants more attention, but because it should be given less. At the outset of the Carter Administration, relations with Vietnam were given high priority, and teams were dispatched to Hanoi to deal with the issue of U.S. soldiers still reported as "missing in action," and to Paris in connection with "normalization of relations with Vietnam." While the first met with some success, the Paris negotiations came to nothing in the face of Vietnam's insistence on large U.S. economic aid - sometimes referred to as "reconstruction assistance," and sometimes openly as "reparations." By near-unanimous majorities, Congress made clear to the Administration that it must not proceed in that direction. In the same period, some Asia-based representatives of American banks visited Hanoi to explore trade opportunities, but after some early optimism the matter has stagnated. Aside from the insistence by Assistant Secretary Holbrooke on repeated personal trips to Paris to explore "normalization" - odd, since a lower ranking official would have reflected a more appropriately relaxed American posture - the issue now appears to have settled to a low priority on the President's agenda.

A similar flurry of activity characterized the reaction of Japan and the ASEAN states in the wake of Saigon's collapse in 1975. By August 1976, Hanoi had achieved full diplomatic relations with all ASEAN members. President Marcos even praised Hanoi for having "taught the whole world one of the most important lessons in human history,"24 and he was even more effusive on an earlier visit to Peking. He seemed anxious to suggest that the entire Philippine relationship with the United States had been a large misunderstanding, for which it was hoped Manila might be forgiven. Others in ASEAN seemed anxious to avoid actions that might seem provocative to Hanoi, and some hoped that Vietnam might consider cooperative relations with the ASEAN group.

Since then, a recognition has set in that Hanoi has its own interests on the mainland of Southeast Asia, and that those interests give very low priority to the kinds of economic cooperation steps for which ASEAN members are now ready. Vietnam has made this clear by stressing that it is prepared for bilateral relations, but will have nothing to do with ASEAN as a group. It continues to denounce the organization, and although the Thai are endeavoring to establish a decent relationship with Vietnam, they know that until very recently they were Hanoi's particular target for abuse.25 Vietnam has taken other steps that underline its disinclination to move to a new era in relations with its neighbors. One was its virtual annexation of Laos last summer, and a second is its continued willingness to give strong support to Moscow at the expense of its evidently strained relations with Peking. The Soviets are by far the more warily watched in Southeast Asia; the Chinese tacitly accept ASEAN and the American presence. The combination of all these considerations has made clear to most in the region that Hanoi's perspectives are likely to remain in sharp contrast to those in the ASEAN capitals. Vietnam's self-image is not that of an Asian medium-sized state, with something to be gained from cooperation with similarly situated neighbors. Rather, it sees itself as an Asian model state, whose victory and vindication after 30 years give it a global stature well above its comprador neighbors, and remove any need for cooperation with them.

Nonetheless, in Japan (and perhaps among some in Washington) a fixation is now forming that close relations with Vietnam are crucial to stability and security in Southeast Asia. As many in Tokyo see it, what Southeast Asia most needs politically is "early normalization of U.S. relations with Hanoi," and second, that a "bridge" be established between Vietnam and the ASEAN states.26

This is a view from which the United States needs respectfully to demur, for it is not at all well supported by the evidence, but derives instead from a complex set of Japanese attitudes, many of them subjective. Not all can be explored here, but a sense of guilt for not having supported Hanoi's cause during the war is one factor. Another of course is that Japan wants to do business with Hanoi - she regularly buys its coking coal, and Japan's exports to Vietnam have risen rapidly since 1973, although Japan's ASEAN trade remains far larger. Japan has been cautioned by both Hanoi and ASEAN for her trade and assistance to the other, and Tokyo has been constrained by this double pressure.

The Japanese accordingly want to bring to their Vietnam connection the color of more "legitimacy" than they believe now exists, and normalization of U.S. relations with Hanoi would serve that goal. Without that, the Japanese fear continuing criticism from both Hanoi and ASEAN, and they tend also to think assistance programs to both may help to perpetuate Southeast Asia's "cold war" divisions. The Japanese in particular are uncomfortable in that sort of conflictual environment, and their hopes to play the role of bridge between the two groups derives from that discomfort.

The problem is that Japan's views may lend an artificial urgency to the Vietnam issue in American thinking. It is simply unrealistic to expect Congress or the American people to support any form of special economic assistance to Vietnam, and it is in that sense that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's personal attention to the Vietnam issue has been questioned.27 He has made only the briefest stops in Japan, while the ASEAN region has been almost entirely ignored, and the comparison with his several trips to Paris, in pursuit of "normalization" with Vietnam, suggests a disproportionate emphasis. A more prudent American policy would make clear to ASEAN, to Japan, and to Hanoi that in American eyes Vietnam is a developing Southeast Asian state with numerous difficulties and needs, but one whose internal organization makes it no more palatable for American support than any other communist state. A prudent American policy would also make clear to all that in Southeast Asia it is the ASEAN group that is given priority.

Japan's trade and assistance may indeed, as the Japanese hope, help Vietnam to become less dependent on and supportive of the Soviet Union than it is now. In time, Hanoi may come to recognize that its rigid orthodoxy, including its present agricultural collectivization program, does not serve its developmental needs. It may then seek both closer collaboration with its neighbors, and a different investment approach in connection with the United States and the West generally. But that is for Hanoi itself to judge, and the United States should not encourage anyone to expect that American actions will have much effect on that judgment. Indeed this is the one place in Southeast Asia where it will be best to advise Tokyo that Washington welcomes whatever unilateral economic initiatives Japan thinks appropriate. Certainly, however, Japan's assistance to ASEAN should not be contingent upon considerations relating to Vietnam, or geared to expectations of change in the U.S. posture.

Even more important, it should be absolutely clear that in the American calculation of whether and how to provide assistance to ASEAN, there is no element of "waiting on Hanoi." That would be to cater to Vietnam's view that it warrants uniquely favorable treatment - or perhaps unique suspicion. An American policy based on either assumption would serve to inflate the exaggerated importance some already give to Hanoi, and that can hardly be a sensible American goal.


Japan and the United States are bound to encounter extraordinary difficulties in their close and interdependent relationship. Japan is a society that, while fundamentally distrustful of all others, has at least for a time suspended that distrust insofar as the United States is concerned. She has hitched her future to the United States in ways no major nation has ever before attempted with any other, and the pulls that would have Japan act again from fear, and from small-mindedness, are very considerable. Thus it was unfortunate that in the early 1970s, just when the Japanese were becoming more relaxed and accepting of their American connection, it was shaken. The military setback in Vietnam, and the serious political and economic convulsions experienced by Americans at home, represented a crisis of confidence in American politics that has been transmitted in magnified form to the Japanese. As Lyndon Johnson would have said, this has led the Japanese to hunker down, to return their thoughts to Asia, and to cultivate what they perceive as their backyard.

The difficulty is that Japan and America are not only complementary in their economies - indeed Japan is the "mother country" in the classic colonial relationship, since she is the importer of America's commodities and supplier of its manufacturers - but in such places as Japan's Southeast Asian backyard, they are deeply competitive as well. While it might be best in some circumstances to let the competitive chips fall as they might, the problem is compounded here by America's defender role, both of the backyard and of Japan herself. Thus the strands pull in many directions at once, and as I have aimed to show in this essay, the protector must at some point wonder whose interests he defends at such high cost. Very prematurely, Japan has begun already to conclude that the American protective shield is being withdrawn. Japan's fears, leading then to a need for demonstrable U.S. reassurances, represent a repeating cycle of anxiety and guarantees that is costly, irritating, and painful to the United States.

What is called for from both nations is a conscious and convinced decision that they mean genuinely to mingle their fortunes and mix their economies. If that comes, it will ultimately be reflected in a profound transformation of both economic structures. Its first testing, however, will come in the East Asian rim areas, whose continued involvement in the non-communist world structure is essential to both.

Thus the immediate and practical problem requires Americans to believe the rhetoric of their leaders that they are a Pacific power, and to establish with Japan not a condominium - in which the United States provides the security from which all others prosper - but a balanced partnership. Such a partnership would recognize America's capacities and needs as a major economy, as well as America's role as a great power. In Southeast Asia, with almost 300 million people in the very near future, American business should make the investment and marketing decisions that will add up to a serious and growing stake. In education, major changes will be required to train Americans to deal both with Japan and with the regions where Japan now leads.

For Japan, what is required is a trust that Americans have now certainly earned, and a generosity that Japan as a nation has never demonstrated - but to which Americans are now also reciprocally entitled. For Japan, accustomed to think and act essentially in terms of rank and hierarchy, equal partnership with the United States will be most difficult. It might be said to require that Japan extend an open and outreached hand to the United States in Southeast Asia, where Americans have stumbled. Japan's goal must then be to synchronize her steps with the pace of the United States, and this will certainly stretch Japan's capacity for generosity, because the United States is a competitor now lagging or about to fall behind.

If Japan can practice this moderation, and if the United States can make the efforts necessary to catch up, the results will be worthwhile. For there is in the five ASEAN nations, and in Southeast Asia as a whole, an opportunity both for regional betterment and for satisfying enterprise that can only be beneficial in the long run to all the nations involved. If Japan attempts the effort alone, as she began to do in 1977, she will surely be resented and rejected in the long term by Southeast Asia, and the Americans will be much more liable to drop out from precisely that defense presence on which Japan and much else in the Pacific so largely depends.


1 White Paper on Defense (Summary), Defense Bulletin, Public Information Division, Defense Agency, Vol. 1, No. 3, September 1977.

2 Waga Gaiko No Kinkyo, Vol. 1, p. 1 (my emphasis). The last phrase can also be translated: "but also in broader aspects such as political matters."

3 From the Prime Minister's speech on August 18, 1977.

5 Japanese participants at the September 1977 "Shimoda Conference," an annual meeting of leading officials and specialists from the United States and Japan, report wide disappointment with the American posture on Asia and toward Southeast Asia in particular. The United States, one participant concluded, has "opted out." From my continuing contacts with Japanese, I believe that as of February 1978 these sentiments have not been modified by any subsequent U.S. action.

6 The current intellectual emphasis on the meaning of the Meiji Restoration is a good illustration of the ways in which continuity is cherished in Japan. Widely regarded as a clear case of a society rejecting its past in favor of modernizing "foreign" influences, the Meiji period is now pictured in Japan as much less of a break with tradition. Japan's modernization is explained as a continuing process, for which the foundations had been laid in the pre-Meiji period. The "reformers," in this view, did no more than selectively adapt those Western techniques that were considered useful.

7 Saburo Okita, "Japan's New Global Outlook," The Round Table, October 1968.

8 Japan's Economic Cooperation with Southeast Asia, Foreign Ministry, June 1977.

9 Computed from Direction of Trade Annual, 1969-75, International Monetary Fund, and other sources. Needless to say, Japan is the first trading partner from the perspective of the ASEAN countries as well as Vietnam, generally accounting for 30-40 percent of their trade, although in the Philippines the U.S. share is occasionally as large as Japan's.

10 These figures are from the most recent (December 1977) JETRO White Paper on International Trade, which also shows that the rate of increase for Japan's Latin American trade was 5.2 percent in 1976, while for Southeast Asia it was approximately 25 percent!

11 Sankei, January 26, 1976. Identical comments have become common throughout the mass media since then, and recent conversations with senior editors of newspapers as diverse as Nihon Keizei on the respectable Right, to Asahi Shimbun on the moderate Left, indicate that this view of Southeast Asia is held across Japan's spectrum of opinion.

12 Interview in the Far Eastern Economic Review, November 18, 1977, p. 46.

13 Address before the Asia Society, New York, June 29, 1977. The Japanese figure of $6.058 billion is as reported by the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo on the occasion of the 1977 Fukuda visits.

14 Donald R. Sherk, "Foreign Investment in Asia: Japan vs. the U.S.," Columbia Journal of Business, Fall 1974, p. 96.

15 Asia Research Bulletin (Singapore), Report No. 3, May 1977, p. 322.

16 Estimates of U.S. investments in Indonesia range from $1 to $2.5 billion, but there is no argument about the recent and current rates of increase. Every source agrees that Japan's is far steeper than the American; see Far Eastern Economic Review, July 29, 1977, p. 59. The official Japanese estimate as of the end of 1976 was that direct Japanese investments in Indonesia amounted to $2.016 billion, and direct American investments to $1 billion. JETRO, Economic Cooperation of Japan, 1976, p. 31.

17 This excludes Singapore's much higher per capita GDP growth rate of 11 percent. See John Wong, The ASEAN Economies, University of Singapore, Economic Research Centre, 1977, p. 49.

19 Asahi Shimbun, January 14, 1978.

20 In the recent Carter Administration aid proposals for next year, U.S. military grant aid and U.S. military sales to the Philippines are set at $18 million and $18.7 million respectively. Smaller amounts would be provided to Indonesia and Thailand.

21 Senator Javits' remarks were reported in The New York Times of September 5, 1975; Mr. Reston's appeared in the Times on December 11, 1977 and were reprinted in Asahi Shimbun on December 13.

22 On current readings, the Philippines would concentrate on paper production, while Singapore and Indonesia are discussing types of diesel-engine manufacture as an ASEAN project.

23 A recent decision to increase Japan's share of "labor costs" at the bases there to $24.8 million barely scratches the surface of the matter, and U.S. officials in Tokyo seem quite reluctant to move in the direction of a genuine 50-50 share for overall costs. John K. Emmerson, who was Embassy Counselor in Tokyo, reports an estimate of $573 million as the cost to the U.S. in 1970 (Arms, Yen, and Power, Tokyo, 1971, p. 91). Inflation and other factors have reportedly doubled the costs since then, and even Japanese specialists, who would give a "high" estimate for Tokyo's share, identify it as no more than $500 million in 1977.

24 Quoted in the Far Eastern Economic Review, July 23, 1976.

25 In April 1977, when the U.S. military "presence" in Thailand was less than one hundred, Hanoi was still broadcasting that the "continued U.S. presence in Thailand is evidence that Thais are assisting the U.S. imperialists in implementing a neocolonial policy." Hanoi Broadcast, April 21, 1977, reported in Asia and the Pacific, Foreign Broadcast Information Service.

26 There have been many illustrations of this notion in Japan; a very recent one was an article with the headline "Vietnam Becoming New Focal Point" in Nihon Keizai, the nation's most prestigious business-oriented newspaper. Written by the Chief Editor, the article concluded that "peaceful political and economic competition with Vietnam is the problem confronting ASEAN." Nihon Keizai, November 10, 1977.

27 See for example Chalmers Johnson, "Carter in Asia: McGovernism without McGovern," Commentary, January 1978.

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  • Bernard K. Gordon is Professor of Political Science at the University of New Hampshire, currently on leave at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies of Kyoto University, Japan, as Guest Professor and Fulbright Research Scholar. He is the author of Toward Disengagement in Asia: A Strategy for American Policy and the co-editor of The New Political Economy of the Pacific.
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