Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, voiced the Pentagon’s strong desire that Japan continue to contribute to the multinational coalition working to rebuild Afghanistan. Via The Australian, however, comes another bit from Mr. Morrell’s remarks that was not picked up in the Japanese press.
Mr. Morrell appeared to express Pentagon frustration at being forced to deal with the third Japanese defence minister in two months on the matter. Fumi [sic] Kyuma resigned on July 3, Yuriko Koiko [sic] was left out of the new cabinet on Monday and Masahiko Komura replaced her.
“I do know that (Defence Secretary Robert Gates) recently met with the second minister of defence (Ms Koiko) [sic] but I think that was a couple of weeks ago … I guess that’s inoperative now.”
Into the debate comes Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation, who argues that Mr. Abe needs to work harder to do Washington’s bidding: “Abe’s ability to achieve a larger regional and international security role for Japan, favored by Washington, has also been called into question. Abe must show uncharacteristically bold and decisive leadership if he hopes to permanently reverse flagging public support.” I wonder if he meant to say Washington’s support instead of public support, because it seems to me that the surest way for Mr. Abe to reverse his flagging public support would be to reverse course and say no, loudly and persistently, to the US.
Washington’s repeated interjections into Japan’s domestic debate on security policy may have already had the unintended consequence of provoking more overt protestations among the Japanese people and their elected representatives that the US-Japan alliance increasingly means Japan’s subordination to US desires — in short, that a closer US-Japan alliance means “shut up and do what you’re told.” Unease with the alliance lies not far beneath the surface of the Japanese public, and it takes remarkably little for those doubts to become public.
Indeed, if Washington continues to speak, it may undermine the more conciliatory approach to this issue announced by the new Abe Cabinet, encouraging conservatives to question the value of an ever closer US-Japan alliance more openly than they already are (following the North Korea about-face and the comfort women resolution).
In the meantime, the more the US talks, the easier it becomes for Mr. Ozawa and the DPJ to oppose the extension with the full knowledge that they have the public on their side, cheering them on for standing up to US bullying.