- Continue the U.S.-Japan alliance under strong U.S. hegemony and distance itself from a strong China. Under such scenario, Japan would continue its Cold War role as a firm -yet dependent- ally of the United States. The relationship between the two states would be asymmetric; the United States would pay a dominating role in the security apparatus of East Asia, with Japan providing supplemental logistic and rear area support. Under this strategy, Japan’s domestic safety would be completely dependent on the conventional forces and nuclear umbrella of the United States. During such a scenario the United States becomes the de facto regional power, with Japan playing a secondary leadership role. (Or as Matsumura puts it, “the hub to other U.S. regional allies”) Tokyo’s policy decisions would be dominated by technological and economic concerns and Japan’s strategic options would be dominated by the use of soft power. Such a relationship would be justified by the shared democratic and free-trade policy goals of both states.
- Continue the alliance under weakened U.S. hegemony, and distance from a strong China. This strategy is similar to that of the first one, save it assumes that the United States will either lack the resources or the political will needed to maintain a strong presence in East Asia. Under this strategy, Japan would support U.S. hegemony yet perform its own security buildup. During such a scenario it is likely that the U.S. will pressure Japan into acquiring projection capability so that the combined military power of both states might act as a deterrent towards Chinese aggression. Regional politics would increasingly be defined by economic and military competition between a Japan-centered bloc of democracies and China. Matsumara succinctly describe this dynamic as “characterized by open regionalism. The United States, although an outsider, would be welcome to play an active role, and China would be included as a major member state, yet without having any strong leadership role.”
- Continue the alliance under weakened U.S. hegemony, and embrace a strong China. Like the second scenario, this strategy assumes that the United States’ presence in East Asia will enter a state of decline. This approach differs from the second scenario in that it assumes Japan will either lack the resources or the political will to perform a military buildup needed to sufficiently deter China. The reasons for Japan’s inability to enter into an arms race are many: economic recession, demographic decline, and self-imposed pacifism would all likely play a part. Under such a scenario, Tokyo would be forced into a diplomatic entente with Beijing, and would often be compelled to appease Beijing on various political and economic issues. Such a scenario would lead to a Sino-centric regional order, with China shaping the economic landscape of East Asia. While Japan would still have an active soft power role within the community, it would likely suffer from geo-economic marginalization.
- Abrogate the alliance as a result of the end of U.S. hegemony, and embrace a strong China. In this relationship, China would replace the United States as the regional hegemon. Such a scenario would come into existence after Japan failed to perform an arms buildup sufficient to defer Chinese aggression. Such a scenario also assumes that Japanese attempts at entente would similarly fail. Under this approach, Japan would become a de facto protectorate of the new Sino-centric regional order. The relative independence Japan has in the Western interstate system would disappear; Japan’s political, military, and economic policy would all be tied tightly to- if not outright defined by -China’s foreign policy goals. Under such a system, Japan would be substantially less secure, as it would face hostile United States without the benefit of a Chinese nuclear umbrella.
- Abrogate the alliance as a result of the end of U.S. hegemony, and distance from a strong China. This final relationship would result from the breakup of the U.S-Japan hegemonic alliance with Japan acting as a third “pole” in Northeast Asia. Under this scenario, Japan would balance against both the United States and China, with neither country holding much influence over Japanese foreign policy. Such a situation would require a massive military buildup; this buildup would consist of the possession of major conventional projection powers as well as a strategic nuclear arsenal. Such a strategy would transform regional politics into a “great game” between the three competing powers, with Japan, China, and the United States all vying for political and economic advantage. Needless to say, this triple-power relationship would be highly unstable, particularly when one takes into account the historical grievances between China and Japan.
“Speaking of the stability of East Asia, continuous effort to review whether or not a balance of power is effectively working in this region is necessary….our thoughts on strengthening Japan-US Security Alliance and Japan’s role, and the synergy between Japan-US Security Alliance and Japan’s Asian Diplomacy. The Japan-US Security Alliance, between the largest and the second largest economic powers, has become one of the most solid alliances in the world. Besides the military significance of the alliance, it should be seen as a regional public good, and as being in a broader context than merely a bilateral alliance. Bilateral efforts to tackle regional challenges by the United States, with its increasing military presence and Japan with further determination and capabilities, could contribute to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region….
The national interests of Japan and the United States significantly overlap and that is why our alliance has been upheld. The core mission of the alliance remains to be the stability of East Asia. As many of you know, the Japan-US Security Alliance is said to be an asymmetrical bilateral relationship. Simply put, the US has an obligation to defend Japan while Japan can not defend the US, as it can not exercise right of collective self-defence due to its interpretation of its own Constitution…. In Japan, some people strongly believe the following: that it is immoral that while Japan seeks assistance from other countries when it is attacked, Japan does nothing to protect foreign countries when they are under attack. they say that Japan will not gain the trust of other countries. They go on to say that that is why Japan needs to pave the way to enable itself to exercise the right of collective self-defence.
At present, the Government of Japan plans neither to amend its Constitution nor change its interpretation. Were this issue to be discussed in the Diet in the future, the following elements should be strictly defined: what conditions are there for the exercise of the right of collective self-defence and how should the Diet should engage itself in the decision making process, so that we should not let an act of invasion take place, in the name of right of collective self-defence….
Next, let me share with you the question I am frequently asked by people from abroad. When North Korea carried out a nuclear test the year before last, some insisted that Japan should also possess nuclear weapons. Japan, however, does not have any plan whatsoever to become a nuclear power today or in the future. If Japan, the only nation that suffered from atomic bombings, becomes a possessor of nuclear weapons, it would automatically lead to the collapse of the entire NPT regime. I should admit that the NPT regime is far from perfect, and that it does entail unfairness. I am convinced, however, that NPT regime offers a better world than a nightmarish one where more nations hold nuclear weapons. It is not nuclear armament that Japan should pursue. Japan should work harder for the non-proliferation of WMD by strengthening the reliability of the nuclear deterrence of the US and by exerting further efforts for continuing Six-Party Talks.”
The more profound changes in Japan’s security posture, however, have been in the realm of policy and institutional reform. Constrained by a U.S.-written pacifist constitution, Japan watched the Cold War from the sidelines and left its security in the hands of the United States while it concentrated on its economic development. As the historian Kenneth Pyle notes in his book Japan Rising, during that era Tokyo imposed on itself eight security-related restraints. It vowed not to deploy Japanese troops overseas, participate in collective self-defense arrangements, develop power-projection capabilities for its military, develop nuclear weapons, export arms, share defense-related technology, spend more than one percent of its GDP on defense, or use outer space for military purposes.
Today, as Pyle notes, Tokyo is scaling back or abandoning all of these self-imposed restraints. In addition to supplying fuel for the warships of the coalition forces operating in Afghanistan, this past May, the Diet passed a bill calling for a national referendum as early as 2010 to amend Article 9 of the constitution, which renounces war, prohibits the threat or use of force to settle international disputes, and bans Japan from having a formal military. The government has also been seeking to reinterpret the constitution in order to allow Japan to engage in collective self-defense with the United States, which could theoretically include supporting the United States in a conflict with China over Taiwan. Japan is seeking to develop its capability to project power: earlier this year, it requested to buy 50 F-22 fighter bombers from the United States, it has purchased the midair refueling tankers, and in August it launched the Hyuga, an aircraft carrier for helicopters. Its decision to join the United States in developing a ballistic missile defense system for the region belies its past commitments not to export arms or share military technology. And last year, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party voted to allow Japan to use outer space for military purposes. (The Diet is expected to vote on the matter later this year.) Finally, earlier this year, Tokyo formally elevated the Japan Defense Agency to the status of a full ministry. The move’s symbolism was not lost on observers: onsecurity matters, Tokyo is coming out of its shell.
On the other hand, the emerging security situation in Northeast Asia presents opportunities for cooperation. The U.S.-Japanese alliance is stronger than it has been in many years in part because Japan, faced with China’s military modernization, is looking to strengthen its security ties with the United States as a countermeasure…. If anything, it is Washington that must demonstrate its intention to stay fully engaged in the region. Downsizing U.S. forces could create the perception that the United States is a wounded giant stretched so thin by its commitments elsewhere that it is failing to pay sufficient attention to the Pacific.