Pacific Alliance: Reviving U. S.-Japan Relations

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Despite the enduring importance of the U.S.–Japan security alliance, the broader relationship between the two countries is today beset by sobering new difficulties. In this comprehensive comparative analysis of the transpacific alliance and its political, economic, and social foundations, Kent E. Calder, a leading Japan specialist, asserts that bilateral relations between the two countries are dangerously eroding as both seek broader options in a globally oriented world.

Calder documents the quiet erosion of America’s multidimensional ties with Japan as China rises, generations change, and new forces arise in both American and Japanese politics. He then assesses consequences for a twenty-first-century military alliance with formidable coordination requirements, explores alternative foreign paradigms for dealing with the United States, adopted by Britain, Germany, and China, and offers prescriptions for restoring U.S.–Japan relations to vitality once again.

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Editorial Reviews

Walter F. Mondale

"U.S.-Japan alliance ties critically need broadening and strengthening in the cultural and social, as well as military spheres. This book gives us concrete ideas, drawn from across history and around the world, on how to do it."—Walter F. Mondale, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and former Vice President of the United States

Pacific Affairs

“A volume that will appeal to beginners and to specialists, to practitioners and to scholars of international politics and security relations. . . . Interesting and thought-provoking . . . makes[s] important contributions.”--Andrew L. Oros, Pacific Affairs

— Andrew L. Oros

Pacific Affairs

“A volume that will appeal to beginners and to specialists, to practitioners and to scholars of international politics and security relations. . . . Interesting and thought-provoking . . . make[s] important contributions.”—Andrew L. Oros, Pacific Affairs

— Andrew L. Oros

Walter F. Mondale

"U.S.-Japan alliance ties critically need broadening and strengthening in the cultural and social, as well as military spheres. This book gives us concrete ideas, drawn from across history and around the world, on how to do it."—Walter F. Mondale, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and former Vice President of the United States
Shunji Yanai

“The Japan-US alliance is faced with many challenges in a multi-polar world which is dramatically different from the time when it was formed. This thought-provoking book reminds us of the ever increasing importance of the alliance in the 21st century and offers practical ways and means to strengthen it.”— Shunji Yanai, former Japanese Ambassador to the United States
Terumasa Nakanishi

"An indispensable book for the future of the alliance."—Professor Terumasa Nakanishi, Kyoto University
Nayan Chanda

“Kent Calder has written an important book. Pacific Alliance will be a valuable addition to the literature on Asian security and foreign policy.”—Nayan Chanda, Director of Publications, YaleGlobal Online Magazine and author of Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalization
Pacific Affairs - Andrew L. Oros

“A volume that will appeal to beginners and to specialists, to practitioners and to scholars of international politics and security relations. . . . Interesting and thought-provoking . . . make[s] important contributions.”—Andrew L. Oros, Pacific Affairs
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300168341
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/31/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 314
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kent E. Calder is director of the Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C. He has served as special advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to Japan and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

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Read an Excerpt

Pacific Alliance

Reviving U.S.-Japan Relations
By Kent E. Calder

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2009 Yale University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-14672-1

Chapter One

The Quiet Crisis of the Alliance

In April 2007 Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo visited the White House with his wife, Akie, for a tête-à-tête dinner with George and Laura Bush. The next day the two principals helicoptered to Camp David, the president's private retreat, for a day of far-ranging talks as friends and allies. Their joint statement hailed a slew of fresh initiatives, elaborated at a high-profile joint news conference.

The New York Times published a panoramic photo of that august gathering the next day, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Minister of Foreign Affairs Aso Taro, flanked by Ambassadors Kato Ryozo and Thomas Schieffer, clearly in evidence in the front row. But it appeared only on page 6. The policy pronouncements were totally ignored, both in the Times and in other mainstream U.S. media.

President Bush declared, as is standard at such occasions, that the transpacific relationship was sound, with historic progress being steadily made between Tokyo and Washington, emphasizing that "the alliance between Japan and the United States has never been stronger." Bush defined the relationship expansively as a "global alliance," while Abe termed it"irreplaceable."

Yet in reality all was not well with Pacific affairs. Two weeks after Abe left Andrews Air Force Base for the Middle East, where 180 business leaders who had skipped the earlier Washington gatherings caught up with him, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a sense of the Congress resolution advising Japan to admit to injustices against Asian "comfort women" engaged in servicing Japanese troops during World War II. That resolution also demanded an apology from Prime Minister Abe, despite the determined efforts of the Japanese embassy to forestall it. Back in Tokyo, Prime Minister Abe refused to oblige the Congress, although he reaffirmed past vague statements of national regret. In the Japanese Diet, legislation to fund ambitious military transformation proposals lay stalled, as Japan prepared to cut generous host-nation support (HNS) payments that for two decades had been a mainstay of American military support for continued forward deployment in Japan. More than eleven years after President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro solemnly agreed at the Tokyo Summit of 1996 to close the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station and move it to northeastern Okinawa, not a single bulldozer had moved.

Meanwhile, in Beijing American negotiators were leading talks to cap and close North Korea's nuclear facilities at Yongbyon. The focus in these so-called six-party talks was almost exclusively nonproliferation issues. Japan's central concerns-its kidnapped citizens and mobile North Korean Nodong missiles capable of reaching Kansai-were not being addressed, although more than one hundred of the missiles were already operational. And in Japan itself, a debate had begun as to whether it might be appropriate for Tokyo to consider going nuclear.

Things did not get much better in the succeeding months. In September 2007 an exhausted Prime Minister Abe abruptly resigned, following a string of Cabinet scandals and a massive defeat in the triannual Upper House election. The following month, the newly emboldened opposition, controlling half of the Diet, forced the temporary recall of Marine Self-Defense Forces (MSDF) from the Indian Ocean, where they were deployed in support of U.S.-led antiterrorist operations.

Early in 2008 a series of widely publicized crimes, ranging from murder and rape to theft and counterfeiting, were attributed to American servicemen in Okinawa and Yokosuka, leading to a strong popular backlash against U.S. bases. These bases, in addition to carrying out other strategically important tasks, sustain the only American aircraft carrier home-ported outside the United States, while also housing, in peacetime, one of the three worldwide Marine Expeditionary Corps. Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo, Abe's successor, watched in frustration as the resurgent opposition in March 2008 rejected the $4 billion annual HNS agreement with the United States, threatening to reduce by half the total bilateral HNS funding that the U.S. military receives worldwide. The HNS budget was restored, over the opposition's heated objections, in May 2008. And four months later, Prime Minister Fukuda himself resigned, within a year of his installation, creating further uncertainties. The similarly unstable administration of Aso Taro followed.


A senior State Department colleague once wryly advised me, during my four and a half years of U.S. embassy service in Tokyo, that "there has never been a U.S.-Japan summit or senior dialogue that did not succeed." His thin smile reflected the corrosive mixture of abject belief, smug security, and persistent cynicism that all too often pervades the professional handling of U.S.-Japan relations today. It adds up, in a word, to the antithesis of crisis consciousness. The United States and Japan, after all, are long-standing treaty allies, with a security relationship that has deepened measurably since 9/11. Indeed, many of their principal interlocutors have established ties of mutual trust that go back generations. And their summit meetings have, with the notable exception of a few in the early 1990s, gone remarkably smoothly.

The handlers of U.S.-Japan relations should be justifiably proud of such accomplishments, in a narrow technical sense. Certainly the senior policy meetings of late have been going smoothly. Yet those gatherings may amount to little more than rearranging the lounge chairs, in a composed, deliberate, and sophisticated fashion, on the main deck of the Titanic.

The institutional structures for managing U.S.-Japan relations today, especially those on the Japanese side, were born, as we shall see, almost without exception of Occupation and the early Cold War. They are based, as we shall also find, on an embedded bargain, forged at San Francisco in 1951, that was brilliantly conceived but is now arguably out of date. Japan's postwar constitution, together with the configuration of its labor unions, its agriculture, its political parties, and its mass media, not to mention its security ties with the United States, was profoundly shaped by developments of the first two post-World War II decades, the San Francisco settlement being the linchpin. So were the MSDF, the Defense Facilities Administration Agency (DFAA), the U.S.-Japan Joint Security Consultative Committee, the Joint Committee on U.S.-Japan Security Relations, and many other institutions at the core of the Pacific alliance.

Yet the world, to reiterate, is changing. As we shall argue in coming pages, there are powerful forces building in the post-Cold War global political economy, not to mention the domestic systems of both nations, that quietly challenge the very fundamentals of transpacific partnership as well as the concept of bilateral alliance traditionally prevailing between Washington and Tokyo. In the broader world, China and a dynamic, growing Asia are attractive new magnets pulling both Washington and Tokyo away from their traditional focus on one another. And in domestic politics, changing ethnic equations and nativistic trends are diluting the primacy within Pacific affairs that U.S.-Japan relations have traditionally enjoyed.

Dangerously, the institutions that the two nations have for dealing with these emerging challenges are inadequate to resolve them. These institutions are deficient either because the new challenges are painfully ensconced in a history of occupation and reconstruction now growing rapidly obsolete, or because they are so global that they do not address the unique problems that the United States and Japan mutually confront. There is a distinct need for change, even if the consciousness of that need is sorely lacking.


The most important deficiency, we shall argue, is ironically the fruit of recent apparent success. It is the lack of crisis consciousness-the perverse spirit of mutual self-congratulation-that pervades U.S.-Japan relations today. Historically, fear of future disruption-of radical departure from a fragile yet vital status quo-has been the force driving mutual accommodation between Washington and Tokyo as well as policy innovation in transpacific relations more generally. This fateful connection between crisis and innovation was, for example, graphically present in the crafting of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, amidst the Korean War; in the Kennedy-Reischauer years of the early 1960s, following the Security Treaty crisis; and in the Carter-Mansfield diplomatic era of the late 1970s, after the fall of Saigon. The Reagan-Shultz-Mansfield trio also successfully evoked it during the early 1980s to confront an expansionist Soviet Union after Afghanistan, with the strong cooperation of Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro in Japan. So did the Clinton-Perry-Mondale team following the tragic Okinawa rape case in 1995, and the Bush-Armitage-Howard Baker partnership, similarly aided by Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro, in the shadow of 9/11. For both Republican and Democratic administrations in the United States, not to mention Japanese governments of every description, crisis has been the driving force of policy innovation, in both foreign and domestic policy. Sadly, that dynamic engine of change still remains strangely silent today.

This book relies extensively on cross-national comparison to deepen and generalize my concrete observations about how U.S.-Japan bilateral relations themselves actually operate in the real world. We look at America's European alliances, both multilaterally within NATO and bilaterally, in particular with Britain, Germany, and Italy; U.S.-Asian alliances, especially with South Korea; and at the contrasting Sino-American relationship-an exception that intriguingly demonstrates more general patterns configuring U.S.-Japan relations as well. In all these diverse cases, drawn from throughout the world, the importance of crisis as the mother of innovation reveals itself, just as it does in transpacific ties between Washington and Tokyo.


Measured against the standards of the past, the U.S.-Japan relationship of the past five years has in some ways undoubtedly functioned well. Ties of friendship and mutual esteem emanating from an unprecedented personal bond between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro and extending to the parallel trust between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Japanese Ambassador to the United States Kato Ryozo led to some remarkable and historic deepening of transpacific security ties in the wake of 9/11. Trade frictions, endemic from the Nixon Shocks of 1971 until the automotive agreement of 1995, have abated remarkably.

Yet the evanescent bonds of the recent past cannot cope with the pointed challenges of the future now emerging. As we shall see, those new challenges differ sharply from those of the past few years. And existing programs and institutions, many dating back half a century, are not configured to address them well. It does not follow from the tranquil recent past of U.S.-Japan relations that benign patterns will continue, especially if the continually crucial catalyst to policy innovation that crisis consciousness provides does not prevail.

The problem for analysis here is thus threefold. First, this study profiles the unique and daunting, if surprisingly unobserved, longer-term policy challenges that loom for U.S.-Japan relations, as their East Asian regional and domestic-political context steadily changes. Second, it inventories the institutional and interpersonal mechanisms for response that currently exist, comparing them with patterns prevailing in other comparable international relationships and accenting the distinctive, irreplaceable historical past from which they stem. Finally, after identifying the critical deficiencies, this work suggests how those gaps might be filled, so as to transform U.S.-Japan relations into the real pillar of stability in transpacific and global affairs that it has such rich potential to become.

Deepening Long-Term Challenges

The global context of the U.S.-Japan relationship in the twenty-first century, I argue, will be fundamentally different from that which has prevailed since the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951. As is well known, global economic interdependence is rapidly rising, most noticeably in such areas as direct investment and international finance. Global regimes to regulate rising transactions are forming in response, with all the attendant technical issues of multilateral coordination that such regimes necessarily involve. Those problems of coordination are intensified by the enormous potential volatility in markets and other political-economic parameters that the massive scale of global financial transactions and the lightning speed of Internet-related information flows mutually provoke.

Third-Country Complications

U.S.-Japan relations, in that global context, are thus easily diluted and subordinated to broader concerns, as has proven true in cases ranging from Iran and Kashmir to North Korea. Traditional bilateral modes of resolution, which readily incorporate even nuanced Washington-Tokyo understandings of the past, are easily undermined and preempted. The potential problems for bilateral relations that this silent transition to globalism can generate were graphically illustrated in the remarkably bitter steel-trade controversies of 1998 and 2002. These flared up even after the traditional bilateral structures for resolution, such as trigger-price mechanisms and orderly marketing agreements (OMAs), were dismantled. The subtle yet perilous frictions of a multilateral world were also apparent in the ongoing controversy over implementation of the Kyoto environmental protocol after 2001. There, once again, Japan and the Bush administration found agreement difficult, despite their continuing mutual declarations of alliance.

The regional context of U.S.-Japan relations is also changing, increasing the potential distraction to the alliance of third-party issues. Since 2001, America's largest bilateral trade deficit has been not with Japan, but with China. Since 2002, Japan's largest source of imports has also shifted from the United States to the PRC. Since 2003, as noted in figure 1.1, total U.S.-China trade has exceeded that between the United States and Japan by an increasing margin. And since 2007, Japan-China trade volume has eclipsed U.S.-Japan trade as well. Today U.S.-Japan trade is the most anemic link of what for most of the past half century was an America-centric economic triangle among Japan, China, and the United States.

More generally, intra-Asian trade is rising in importance, while transpacific trade is languishing, with future exchange-rate shifts likely to intensify this historic trend. A stronger yen, won, and RMB can only make the markets of Japan, Korea, and China collectively more attractive. The PRC, through its rapid growth, rising currency, and astute networking, is pulling both America and Japan into a tighter, if arguably more claustrophobic embrace with Beijing in subtle ways that are gradually coming to quietly challenge the bilateral U.S.-Japan relationship as well. China's priorities and definitions of desirable regional stability are growing more influential, as manifest in the six-party talks on North Korean issues. This subtle Chinese impact on U.S.-Japan relations is compounded by mainland China's growing political-economic ties with Taiwan, which have major geoeconomic implications for neighboring Japan also.

Technology, especially defense technology, is likewise evolving in ways that create subtle, yet intensifying challenges for the U.S.-Japan relationship. Both North Korea and China appear to be increasing both the number and the accuracy of their missile systems. Chinese DF-11 and DF-15 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) along the Taiwan Straits appear to have been increasing particularly rapidly.

At present North Korea lacks missiles capable of reliably reaching the United States in any volume, and China remains far from strategic parity. Yet both have substantial and growing numbers of short-range missiles of increasing accuracy, capable of being targeted on Japan. North Korea now has well over one hundred mobile Nodong missiles operational, capable of reaching virtually any part of the Japanese archipelago. The DPRK has also been developing the multistage Taepodong 2, whose six-thousand-kilometer range would allow it to deliver warheads as far as Alaska and northern Australia. The PRC has more than 725 SRBMs targeted on Taiwan and the Kansai area of Japan, plus over 35 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) capable of reaching any Japanese location, together with more than 50 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), covering much of America's heartland.


Excerpted from Pacific Alliance by Kent E. Calder Copyright © 2009 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


List of Figures....................ix
A Note on Conventions....................xv
List of Acronyms....................xvi
1 The Quiet Crisis of the Alliance....................9
2 The World That Dulles Built....................31
3 The Notion of Alliance....................67
4 The Economic Basis of National Security....................89
5 Networks: Sinews of the Future....................115
6 An Alliance Transformed: U.S.-Japan Relations since 2001....................134
7 The Global Challenge....................158
8 Alternative Paradigms....................178
9 Prescriptions for the Future....................216
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