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US-Japan Military Alliance Poised to Decline

Aug 21 , 2015
  • Wu Zurong

    Research Fellow, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

The United States-Japan military alliance embarked on the path of decline on July 16, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe forced his new security bill through the Lower House against the popular will in Japan. Abe and his cabinet have violated the constitution by giving up the defense policy upheld by previous cabinets since the end of World War II. They want to make Japan a strong military power again and to send Japanese troops to any part of the world in support for military operations conducted by the United States. This political orientation of his governing the country has aroused very strong public opposition and protest from all walks of life. Abe’s revealed intention to militarize Japan and the public protests resulting from it are two important symbolic events, indicating the inevitable gradual decline of the US-Japan military alliance. The declining process may have ups and downs, and will last a long time. It will naturally have a deep impact on the international order.

Firstly, it is against the tide of our times of peace and development to strengthen the US-Japan military alliance. In appearance, the alliance will become the most powerful military force in the world when Japan, the third largest economy with advanced military equipment technologies, joins the US, the only military superpower in the world, in military operations in any part of the world. In an addition, the alliance could enter into a perfect state when it gets all kinds of possible support from other allies. But the alliance would turn into its opposite when it reaches the extreme, as the old is always superseded by the new — an eternal and inviolable law of universe. Everything changes, without exception, in the world. Misguided by the overestimate of the role in war of sophisticated weapons, the alliance tends to increase its military activities in the world for various short-term goals. Such military expansion will inevitably create more enemies and add to their burdens, wearing down the alliance. In fact, the alliance has already started to decline even before reaching its anticipated peak.

Secondly, the US and Japan have different strategic goals in the Alliance, and internal strife can hardly be avoided. The key element of the new guidelines of US-Japan defense and cooperation released on April 27 is that the US will support the Japanese self-defense force in playing an active role in any part of the world. Abe has used the Alliance as a tool to break the prohibition of “the right of belligerency” as stipulated in Article 9 of the Japanese constitution and to fully exercise collective self-defense, with the long-term goal of building a strong military force. In his August 14 speech on the war of aggression launched by Japanese fascists, Abe himself refused to honestly recognize the heinous crimes committed by Japan during World War II, nor did he personally make sincere apologies to the countries that suffered so bitterly under Japanese aggression and colonial rule.

Abe’s attitude on the history issue demonstrates that the rightwing Japanese politicians are going along a dangerous road. On the part of the US, the use of Japanese military forces in the world could help overcome some of the difficulties resulting from the federal budget constraints when implementing its strategy of rebalance in Asia. But in the long term, with profound changes of the world situation in the not too distant future, the US would have to confront a powerful military force of Japan, which would possibly revive militarism and compete with the US for hegemony in Asia. The current US policy on Japan shows that the US has failed to draw necessary lessons from the 1941 Pearl Harbor incident. History reveals that a strong military force of Japan is the cause of wars in Asia and the world. In this sense it is undoubtedly dangerous for the US to foster Japan’s military forces for its immediate interests.


Thirdly, the earnest aspiration and strong will of the Japanese public to oppose Abe and his cabinet in dragging Japan into war will inflict a severe wound on the alliance. As Abe’s new security bill is now under deliberation in the Upper House, more and more Japanese have come to see through the tricks surrounding the new security bill, played by the Japanese rightist political forces in collusion with the American hawks. They call Abe’s new security bill a “war bill”. As they still have fresh memories of the massive destructions caused by the explosions of atomic bombs and the bombing of Tokyo during World War II, they are determined to oppose war and seek peace, and will never allow another destructive large-scale modern war to occur in Japan. Abe’s new security bill has been unpopular when deliberated by the Diet. Even though it is expected to be adopted during the current Diet session before the end of September due to the LDP majority, its implementation will have more difficulties. Without the support of the Japanese common people, the Japanese military force fighting outside of Japanese territory is weak, and doomed to failure.

Fourthly, the growth of forces for peace and the international strategic stability in the world since the end of the Cold War would keep the alliance’s military expansion in check. People in all countries of the world are now concentrating their efforts in invigorating their economies and improving the livelihood of their people, with a common goal of building up the destiny community of the mankind. Under such circumstances, in order to cook up a pretext for their Alliance’s military expansion, the US and Japan have resorted to creating regional tensions and military threats. Their perverse propaganda and activities may deceive some people for a time, but can never let people believe them forever. It is an eloquent example that US military bases in Japan, which are not helpful to regional peace, are often denounced by local people for the damages of various kinds done to the localities.

US and Japanese politicians may find it is a smug strategy to strengthen their military alliance right now. But in the face of the growing force for peace in Japan, the US and other parts of the world, their alliance appears to be weak and subject to challenges. The powerful trends of economic globalization and world multi-polarization do not in any way support the strengthening of the US-Japan military alliance, but helps its disintegration.

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