Japan: Not quite 20-20
vision By Kosuke Takahashi
TOKYO - United States President Barack
Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
on Monday pledged to boost their security alliance
to maintain peace and security in the Asia-Pacific
region - a move intended to counter China's
military buildup and North Korea's erratic
Noda became Japan's first
premier to formally meet with Obama in Washington
since the Democratic Party of Japan took power in
September 2009. Amid Japan's revolving door of
prime ministers who tend to resign after very
short tenures, Noda is the sixth national leader
in as many years - he assumed office in September
After their 60-minute summit, the
two leaders issued a joint statement titled "A
Shared Vision for the Future",  the first of
its kind since June 2006 when then-US president
George W Bush and prime minister Junichiro Koizumi
issued a joint statement
titled "The Japan-US
Alliance of the New Century".
vision lays out the future we seek in the
Asia-Pacific - a region where international rules
and norms are upheld, where nations contribute to
regional security, where commerce and freedom of
navigation is not impeded and where disputes are
resolved peacefully," Obama said a press
conference, apparently aiming to keep in check
fast-growing China's naval power.
the two governments have stressed to develop a
shared vision for the future, there appear to be
some differences in their positions.
the US still cares about the so-called asymmetric
threats such as terrorism, unconventional
guerrilla warfare and cyber-attacks from a
long-term strategic standpoint of its global
defense posture, Japan is tactically trying to
solve individual problems such as the burden of US
military bases carried mostly by the people in
On the defense front, the two
leaders particularly hailed last week's new
agreement  to realign American forces in Japan.
The US and Japan on April 26 unveiled a
revised agreement to transfer 9,000 US Marine
Corps troops from Okinawa prefecture to Guam and
other bases in the western Pacific: a move
intended to reduce the impact of US bases on the
southern Japanese island chain.
accord, which updates a 2006 agreement on the
realignment of US forces in Japan, will relocate
about 5,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam - a US
territory - and the remaining 2,500 to Darwin of
Australia, and 1,500 to Hawaii. About 10,000
troops will remain in Okinawa.
reflects our effort to modernize America's defense
posture in the Asia-Pacific with forces that are
more broadly distributed, more flexible and more
sustainable," Obama said at the White House on
Monday. "At the same time, it will reduce the
impact on local communities, like Okinawa."
Last week's agreement for the first time
introduced the new concept of "bilateral dynamic
defense cooperation", which includes timely and
effective joint training, joint surveillance and
reconnaissance activities, as well as joint and
shared use of facilities for US forces and the
Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF).
Specifically, the two governments affirmed
to consider co-developing training areas in Guam
and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana
Islands, such as Tinian and Pagan islands, for US
forces and the JSDF. Both governments plan to
identify specific areas of cooperation by the end
of this year.
However, the JSDF working
routinely with US forces in other parts of the
Asia-Pacific region could lead to the use of
forces outside Japan, which the nation's pacifist
constitution strictly prohibits.
such concerns, there has been no national debate
in the Diet (parliament) on dynamic defense
cooperation, and no effort by the Noda
administration to build a people's consensus.
For Japan, which is in poor financial
shape among developed countries - its government
debt has reaching 230% of gross domestic product -
the ever-increasing burden of the realignment of
US forces is becoming a big problem in Tokyo.
The two governments last week said the
total cost of relocating marines and their
dependents from Okinawa to Guam would be lowered
to US$8.6 billion from the original $10.27
billion. However, the cost to Japan has risen from
a maximum of $2.8 billion to $3.1 billion,
compensating for inflation.
share of costs includes building expenses for
land, housing, schools and other facilities in
Guam as well as the costs of developing the
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, such
as Tinian Island, where, as an historical irony,
two B-29s took off to drop atomic bombs on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
those facilities were to be created inside its own
territory, Japanese people would be content to
incur such huge costs. But now, as if Tokyo had
become an automated teller machine for the US, the
facilities are being built outside Japan.
Thanks in part to Japan's money, Guam will
have its largest military presence since the
Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 1970s when US
Air Force B-52s made daily bombing runs from bases
on the island.
In addition, the Japanese
government has even pledged to pay refurbishment
costs for the controversial Marine Corps Air
Station Futenma on Okinawa, until a sea-based
replacement facility off Camp Schwab is
constructed on the north of the island. The local
government has demanded the closure of the Futenma
site, which is situated in a built-up area,
instead of doing maintenance and repairs on it.
"Japan has always shared the financial
burden of the US forces innocuously," Japanese
military analyst Toshiyuki Shikata told Asia Times
Online on Tuesday. "In the past decades, then
ruling Liberal Democratic Party also did the same
thing, so it also cannot complain about this now.
It would be much better if we could use such money
for our own defense."