CFR-ASAHI SYMPOSIUM (1): JAPAN-U.S. ALLIANCE AFTER 3/11 AND BEYOND / U.S. expert: Alliances face new era of unpredictability

December 16, 2011

Alliances, from the Japan-U.S. security arrangement and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, are facing a new era of unpredictability and complexity, a U.S. foreign policy expert said.

Speaking at a symposium, "Japan-U.S. Alliance After 3/11 and Beyond," Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the modern world is fundamentally different from the Cold War era, "when you know exactly who your enemy is (and) where the battlefield is."

The symposium, held in Tokyo on Dec. 8, was organized by the Council on Foreign Relations and The Asahi Shimbun. Yoichi Kato, national security correspondent of The Asahi Shimbun, served as a moderator.

Haass talked with Yoichi Funabashi, former editor in chief of The Asahi Shimbun.

Funabashi asked how the sovereign debt crisis in Europe will affect NATO.

"The future of NATO depends upon its willingness and ability to be a capable actor outside of the European area," Haass said. "(But) ... similar to what we're seeing on the economic side, national considerations often take priority over European or collective considerations."

Speaking of alliances, including the Japan-U.S. alliance, Haass said: "The challenge for any alliance, including NATO now, is whether it can meet (the current) demanding situation."

During the Cold War, it was not difficult for alliances to operate and the Japan-U.S. alliance was also predictable. However, the situation today is much more complicated, and the governments must prepare for the unpredictable, he said.

Haass said the United States must deal with "countries that are not 100 percent adversaries or 100 percent friends," citing Pakistan as the primary example.

The United States strengthened military cooperation with Pakistan after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001.

But the bilateral relations have deteriorated because the United States suspects that Pakistan is giving refuge to the Taliban, and U.S. Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in the country.

"We have profound disagreements with Pakistan and its policy in Afghanistan, its support for terrorism and the rest," Haass said. "But how do we disagree in those areas and not get in the way, not make it impossible to agree and cooperate on the areas we can still cooperate on?"

In his speech at the symposium, Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, parliamentary senior vice minister for foreign affairs, said Japan can be a bridge between the United States and Pakistan.

Funabashi said: "It would be nice if we would forge a solid partnership with Pakistan. But the reality is that it is less and less likely."

Haass said, "We don't need Japan or anybody else to build bridges. What we need is (for) people to 'speak the truth' to Pakistan about how it will isolate itself from the international community if it continues to pursue policies that are supportive of terrorism."

Turning to China, Funabashi asked if the Chinese are starting to think that the one-time low-profile strategy, under which it gave priority to "peaceful development," is not suitable for the country any more.

Haass agreed. "In the last few years, we've seen some statements by the Chinese which are more assertive," he said. "We welcome China to play a larger role in the region and the world," but it must be on terms that are mutually acceptable.

He added that China must understand that it will not succeed if it takes a more coercive strategy toward its neighbors in the pursuit of narrow national interests.

"This is not a containment strategy," Haass said. "It's a pro-stability, pro-prosperity strategy for the region."

Haass also expressed concerns about Japan after having "two lost decades economically."

"I'm struck by the lack of as rich a public debate and private debate as there needs to be" about how Japan should be and where it should go, he said.

"Japan risks a future of declining relevance if it can't address some of its internal challenges (or) if it can't figure out how to go from an underachiever to an achiever," he said. "It's really for Japanese to look at your politics, your party structures, immigration policies, policies of regulation and taxation, and things that inhibit economic growth."

In the second half of the symposium, Sheila Smith and Michael Levi, senior fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations, spoke.

Smith spoke under the title of "Japan-U.S. Alliance in a Regional Context."

"The U.S.-Japan relationship has had the luxury, if you will, of being able to (go through policy changes and adaptations) incrementally and slowly, with a certain amount of deliberation," she said.

"These last several years ... in the Asia-Pacific ... (have) forced us to focus on rather abrupt, less predictable kinds of changes than we've had to imagine in the past."

She cited as examples an artillery battle on the Korean Peninsula and a confrontation between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, both in 2010.

These events "woke us up to some of the areas which the United States and Japan had sort of put aside," she said.

Smith said the United States is shifting its diplomatic focus from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific.

"For Japan and the United States, it's important that we think not just passively about the transitions that are going on, but also about shaping the kinds of institutions, the kinds of norms, the kinds of relationships that we want to be a part of," she said.

Levi spoke under the title of "Fukushima and Climate Change."

Referring to the repercussions of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Levi said, "I'm struck by the relatively limited consequences for nuclear power development elsewhere in the world.

Still, he said he is closely watching developments in India and the United States, saying, "I would leave two big wildcards out there for the future."

Levi touched on the impact of the Arab Spring on oil markets and movements in the natural gas markets.

He said people need to start having a "more integrated conversation" about energy security and climate change even though the two issues have traditionally been discussed separately.

Haass and other participants responded to questions from the floor.

Asked about challenges the United States must address, Haass said economically, the country needs to reduce its deficit and restore economic growth.

But he said there has been little progress due to strong conflicts between two schools of thought, one for a large government and the other for a small government.

"Very little will get done in 2012. We will be in an election campaign," he said. "(But) by 2013, if the United States continues on its way, patience will begin to run out, and there will be pressures on the United States to begin to adjust its trajectory."

Funabashi was asked how Japan can increase its presence in the world.

"Perhaps we really should start over by finding out what really went wrong with the policies over the past 20 years," he said. "We are seeing an increasing number of governments being shuffled and reshuffled these days, so it is very difficult for citizens to understand what policy has caused problems and what policy has created some positive results."

Some questions were asked on the future of defense cooperation between Japan and the United States.

Smith said Japan and the United States learned important lessons after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.

"The two militaries had plenty of exercises (and) plenty of discussions and thinking about how they might operate together," she said. "But (the post-disaster experience) was the first real chance for across-the-board forces to really operate in a short time frame and a very focused response."

She added, "The United States and Japan ought to be talking quite frankly about where the forces' complementarities are ... (and) about their common needs ..."

Haass said he is not worried about a reduction in the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific.

He said the U.S. military is placing a greater emphasis on the Asia-Pacific, where the Navy and the Air Force play key roles, away from Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Army and the Marines have been the primary forces.

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Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, left, and Yoichi Funabashi, former editor in chief of The Asahi Shimbun (Photos by Hikaru Uchida)

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, left, and Yoichi Funabashi, former editor in chief of The Asahi Shimbun (Photos by Hikaru Uchida)

  • Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, left, and Yoichi Funabashi, former editor in chief of The Asahi Shimbun (Photos by Hikaru Uchida)
  • Panelists discuss at a symposium, "Japan-U.S. Alliance After 3/11 and Beyond," held in Tokyo on Dec. 8. (Hikaru Uchida)

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