The message is more or less the same in both of the interviews I read, but a quote in the Mainichi interview especially caught my eye. Ambassador Schieffer said, “If Japan makes this kind of statement of backing away from the war on terror, it will send a ‘terrible message’ not only to the United States but to the international community.”
Now, I happen to think this is true. Japan’s commitment in Afghanistan is to the UN-sanctioned coalition working to rebuild Afghanistan (and indirectly to the people of Afghanistan), not to the US. Go back and read the US-Japan mutual security treaty. There is no provision that provides for allied cooperation outside of the Far East, a term that has never been properly defined and is generally understood to apply to potential scenarios in the region and not to a foreordained geographic area. In any event, cooperation between the US and Japan in Afghanistan and Iraq are not explicitly included in the alliance, although naturally the alliance has a lot to do with why Japan is in both places.
However, if the international community is so concerned about Japan’s pulling its refueling detachment out of the Indian Ocean, wouldn’t that message be far more convincing coming from someone other than the ambassador of the US to Japan? Why not Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, secretary-general of NATO, twenty-five of whose member nations outside of the US have contributed to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan? Why not Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, whose organization has approved the multinational coalition’s activities in Afghanistan with multiple resolutions? Why not the governments of other countries involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, or the government of Afghanistan itself? Does Ambassador Schieffer not realize that regardless of what he says, his persistent lobbying on the issue makes it into a US-Japan issue and decreases the chances that Ozawa and the DPJ will compromise, if only to avoid appearing as to have caved in to US pressure?
Thankfully the White House has announced that President Bush will not be stopping in Japan when he goes to Australia next month for the APEC summit, a visit that would have occurred around the anniversary of 9/11 and would undoubtedly have resulted in even more US pressure on the DPJ to change its position.
I want Japan to continue to participate in the multinational coalition supporting Afghanistan; I think it’s the right thing to do, and I think Japan ought to be involved in a mission in which nearly every developed democracy is involved. But Japan’s continuing involvement should not be the result of US browbeating or arm-twisting, because the alliance will not last much longer if it functions on the basis of the US government’s leaning hard on Japan when it wants Tokyo to do something. The Japanese government — ideally with the support of the Japanese people — has to want to participate in international missions. To make Japan do otherwise — to put the government in the position of having to force enabling legislation through the Diet — is to sow the seeds of the alliance’s destruction. (Of course, the Abe government, as Defense Minister Koike made clear last week, seems content with US gaiatsu on this issue, whatever the consequences for the alliance.)
So, Ambassador Schieffer, consider the consequences of your continuing to pressure the DPJ to change course — and cease and desist. It is in the interest of the US for Japan to play a more active global role as a great power among great powers, not as the submissive ally of the US doing Washington’s bidding.