Reflections on the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty at 60
The following is an excerpt from ASPI Vice President of International Security and Diplomacy Daniel Russel's op-ed for Kyodo News.
The 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan is a powerful contract that has stood the test of time. It underpins the stability that has enabled the extraordinary prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. It is the foundational document of a strong alliance rooted in shared values, democratic ideals, and respect for human rights, the rule of law, and open markets. These deep roots and common interests have generated strong and enduring bipartisan support for the alliance in both countries.
But ultimately, the foundation of the alliance is not a document; it is the trust between the two nations and their citizens. Such trust was in short supply in 1960. The revised security treaty had a baptism by fire -- challenged at the outset by fears among Japanese that Japan would be dragged into conflicts by the United States -- fears that forced then-Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, Shinzo Abe's grandfather, to resign.
But today the U.S.-Japan alliance, some 50 years after the "Nixon shocks," is battered by "Trump shocks" that gnaw away at its foundation of trust. Japan is now labelled a "freeloader," rather than an ally. Ballistic missiles launched by North Korea into the Sea of Japan are "not a problem" since they were not aimed at the United States. The security treaty itself is "unfair and unbalanced." Washington reportedly demanded a fivefold hike to Japan's host nation support contribution. The president drops frequent hints about withdrawing U.S. forces from Japan and abruptly announced troop withdrawals from Germany.
And all this come against the background of American abandonment of agreements and even treaties ranging from TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the Paris climate accord to the Open Skies Treaty and the Iran nuclear deal. Fear that Japan would be dragged into a war drove opposition to the alliance in the 1960s. Today there is fear that Japan may be dragged into a cold war or even a conflict with China.
The roots of the alliance run deep and it will surely survive and flourish. But replenishing trust and demonstrating respect for its alliance partner must be a priority task for the next U.S. administration.