AuthorSato, Yoichiro

Yoichiro Sato predicts that the post-Cold War transformation of the US-Japan security relationship will be a rocky road.

The US-Japan alliance has been the backbone of the American security strategy in North-east Asia during the past 45 years. Despite the continuation of the security treaty, it has gone through major difficulties, both domestically and internationally. In 1997, seven years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Japanese government announced revision of its for US-Japan defence co-operation. However, during the 1998 legislative session, the Japanese Diet failed to pass the bills that would have empowered the new guideline. Although it is expected that the bills will pass during the 1999 session, the dynamics of coalition politics among the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Liberal Party (LP), and the New Komei Party (NKP) complicate the process.

Japan signed the security treaty in September 1951, after Mao Zedong's communist forces took control of the mainland China in 1949, and Kim Ilsung's North Korea launched a war against South Korea in 1950. Japan also signed peace treaties with 48 Allied countries. However, the communist Eastern-bloc countries were not included in Japan's peace settlements. The United States was assured by the pact of its uses of military bases in Japan, and the United States was to extend its security guarantee to Japan.

The first renewal of this treaty in 1960 amidst the Cold War bitterly divided Japan between the leftists, who insisted that Japan remain neutral in the Cold War confrontation, and the conservatives, who preferred close ties with America. The turmoil of demonstrations surrounding the Diet building resulted in the death of a Tokyo University student. Nevertheless, the treaty allowed Japan to focus its resources on economic recovery. Technically, the treaty could have been reviewed in 1970 if either signatory had wished. But the leftist opposition to the treaty had lost its strength after Japan's high-speed economic growth during the 1960s.

Larger burden

Japan's economic recovery and the temporary easing of the Cold War tension during the 1970s put pressure on it to shoulder a larger burden of the alliance.(1) Its Self Defense Force (SDF) started enlarging and modernising its capability to defend Japan's territorial spaces. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 renewed the Cold War tension, and Japan was increasingly incorporated into President Reagan's military build-up. In addition to further improving the territorial defence capability, Japan's Maritime and Air Self Defense Forces have upgraded their capabilities to control a broader sea and air space, jointly with the US forces. Japan also pays more than half of the cost of US troops there...

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