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Japan’s Response to New US Defense Strategy: “Welcome, but…”

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta addresses U.S. and Japanese troops stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2011. (Photo: secdef/Flickr)

The Japanese government welcomes the recently released US defense strategy because it rebalances the strategic focus toward the Asia-Pacific region. But the other focus of this new strategy — the so-called anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) capabilities of China which, the United States fears, could jeopardize its forward presence and freedom of action in the Western Pacific — does not get as much attention from Japan.

The new defense strategic guidance, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” has quickly gained currency in policy discussions in Japan after it was rolled out Jan. 5. Defense Minister Tanaka Naoki has said in the Diet that Tokyo welcomed it. He explained, for example, Jan. 31: “I understand that it indicates the United States attaches more importance to the Asia-Pacific region and enhances its regional presence. I believe it will be a significant contribution to the peace and security in this region.” » More

Time for an Alliance Caucus

Handshake

Image by Flickr/buddawiggi

The post‑World War II “hub-and-spoke” alliance structure has served the United States and its allies well for the past six decades. Yet the transnational nature of current Asia-Pacific security challenges highlights the limitations of bilateral US‑ally relationships to handle regional security threats, traditional or not. Success demands that the US and its allies work with each other in a networked manner. This is not to suggest “NATO for Asia,” but it is time for an informal Alliance Caucus.

A Caucus of the US and its regional allies (Australia, Japan, the Philippines, the ROK, and Thailand) could provide – initially as informal knowledge-sharing gatherings alongside international forums – an opportunity to creatively address concerns relevant not just to the US and its allies, but to the region as a whole.

This proposal is not without precedent. The UN has a multitude of caucuses, informal and formal, where likeminded countries coalesce around shared visions of specific interests. East Asian governments for years have sought a caucus in APEC; they now seek a similar group in the G-20. » More

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