The Japan-US alliance announced its new direction, “Toward a More Robust Alliance and Greater Shared Responsibilities,” on Oct. 3, following the Security Consultative Committee (2+2) meeting. The primary task is to make changes to the Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation by the end of next year, amending the guidelines for the first time since 1997. From the conclusion of the meeting, significant changes are to be expected in Japan’s security policy in the near future, and Taiwan must be prepared for these changes.
There were five key issues at the meeting this time: new guidelines for defense cooperation, enhancement of Japan’s ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities, bilateral and multilateral regional military cooperation, realignment of the US military base in Okinawa and deployment of new weapons.
The guidelines for defense cooperation were initiated in 1978 as a direct result of increasing tensions in the Cold War. At that time, the situation in Iran was precarious, and the Soviet Union was about to invade Afghanistan. The US responded by accelerating the normalization of diplomatic relations with China on the one hand and strengthening military cooperation with Japan on the other. The guidelines were proposed based on Japan’s “purely defensive defense,” confirming the tactic of the US being the “spear” to Japan’s “shield.”
The Japan-US alliance amended the guidelines for defense cooperation again in 1997 to adapt itself to the post-Cold War era. In the face of the disappearance of the Soviet threat and the appearance of the nuclear crisis in North Korea and the crisis in the Taiwan Strait, the US and Japan reconfirmed the importance of the alliance.
During this period, the focus was on expanding the influence of the Japan-US alliance. Japan had even changed its long-term principle of “purely defensive defense.” The Japan-US Security Treaty highlighted Article 6 regarding “the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East,” instead of Article 5 regarding armed attacks against either party. Based on this, the Japanese government later passed the Law Concerning Measures to Ensure the Peace and Security of Japan in Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan in 1999.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US, Japan used the “war on terror” as an opportunity to further expand its influence in the alliance. Consequently, the alliance made a joint statement on globalization at the 2005 Security Consultative Committee meeting.
Since Japan expects to complete the amendments to the National Defense Program Guidelines by the end of the year, and is set to hold a Japan-US summit in the first half of next year, the alliance is likely to launch the new guidelines for defense cooperation at the summit. And this time, the content of the 2+2 meeting shows that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration might push for the constitutionality of Japan’s “right of collective self-defense” through a reinterpretation of its constitution and new guidelines.
By doing so, Japan will largely reduce restrictions on security and defense affairs and increase the chance for military cooperation with neighboring states. Meanwhile, it will adopt a more proactive attitude in terms of “deterrence capability” and “proactive defense,” and may even change its “rules of engagement” for military offenses. Taiwan must keep abreast of these changes and adjust its national security policy accordingly. After all, consolidating its relationship with the Japan-US alliance is considered the absolute principle for the nation’s strategy with other countries.