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Stimson Center Report Says U.S. and Japan Would Benefit By Working Together to Strengthen Their Alliance

Companies mentioned in this article: Stimson Center

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A Stimson Center report issued today says the United States and Japan would both benefit by jointly initiating a pragmatic and collaborative approach to modernize and strengthen their alliance at a time when U.S. defense spending cuts are worrying Japanese government and military leaders.

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The report, titled "Opportunity Out of Necessity: The Impact of US Defense Budget Cuts on the US-Japan Alliance" was written by Yuki Tatsumi, senior associate in the East Asia program at Stimson. Former Stimson researcher Matthew Leatherman contributed to the report.

"The U.S.-Japan alliance faces serious challenges today," Tatsumi said. "The Japanese fear that U.S. defense budget cuts may weaken America's ability and determination to continue its commitment to defend Japan against military attack, despite the Obama administration's announcement of a foreign policy 'pivot' to the Asia-Pacific region."

The report makes four recommendations:

    1. The United States and Japan should engage in frank discussion on how
       their fiscal circumstances could affect their alliance. U.S. defense
       officials should be more forthcoming in private conversations with their
       Japanese counterparts about the difficult budget choices America faces.
       By communicating the Pentagon's honest concerns, the U.S. can encourage
       serious thinking on Japan's part about its role within the alliance and
       its own defense spending. Officials of the Japanese government should be
       more forthcoming in discussing difficult choices their country faces
       regarding the overall level of defense spending and their strategic goals
       in light of the worsening fiscal situation.

    2. The United States should do a better job communicating its intentions,
       not just its military capabilities, to reassure Japan. American officials
       need to give the Japanese more information about the potential impact of
       a smaller defense budget on U.S. intentions to mobilize its military
       assets in Japan under various scenarios.
    3. Japan should recognize that the U.S. budget process, like Japan's, is
       largely a domestic process with multiple actors. The Japanese should
       understand that Pentagon officials and military officers seek more
       funding from Congress, and tailor their arguments regarding the potential
       effect of budget cuts on America's military capabilities to this end.
       Their dire warnings don't necessarily mean the cuts will have a major
       direct impact on the U.S.-Japan alliance.
    4. In observing the U.S. budget debate, Japan should pay greater attention
       to how the anticipated defense budget reductions may affect the U.S.
       acquisition programs that are important to Japan. Cuts in U.S. defense
       spending are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the existing U.S.
       military capability forward-deployed to Japan and in the broader
       Asia-Pacific region. Japanese defense officials should continue to pay
       attention to how the defense spending cuts may affect America's ability
       to sustain and augment its forward-deployed military capability in the
       Asia-Pacific region over time.

Tatsumi's report says that North Korea and China - Japan's two nuclear-armed neighbors - are of greatest concern to the Japanese. North Korea has frequently directed hostile and threatening rhetoric at Japan, and this has intensified under its new leader Kim Jong-Un. China's military modernization and assertive behavior in the East and South China Seas are also quickly emerging as worrisome developments for Japan.

Key findings in the report include:

    --  The U.S. "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region is not new. It was scheduled
        to take place as early as the 1990s, but was delayed by the Sept. 11,
        2001 terrorist attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    --  U.S. defense budget cuts will likely be bigger than originally
        anticipated. Few people expected Congress to allow the across-the-board
        budget cuts known as the sequester to go into effect, but now Congress
        shows little sign of ending the sequester.
    --  Deeper U.S. defense budget cuts are expected to result in reductions to
        the Pentagon's research and development and acquisition programs, along
        with a focus on spending the reduced level of funding on proven
        technologies. This lowers the likelihood of funding for expensive new
        programs such as development of the Joint Strike Fighter.
    --  Japan is unlikely to dramatically increase its defense budget. Japan is
        facing tough economic times and there is less opposition there than in
        the United States to hold down or cut defense spending. Since its defeat
        in World War II, Japan has maintained only a relatively small
        self-defense force and has relied on American guarantees to deter
        foreign aggression. Japan has also restrained its defense spending to 1
        percent of its gross domestic product. While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
        has strongly advocated increased defense spending, Japan's dire fiscal
        situation will constrain his ability to considerably increase the
        nation's defense spending.
    --  The Japanese see the presence of U.S. military forces in their nation as
        a critical sign of the U.S. defense commitment to Japan. In general,
        military personnel in the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marines in Japan are
        viewed as an important demonstration of the U.S. commitment to defend
        the nation. In particular, the presence of U.S. Marines in Okinawa is
        viewed as evidence that the United States is willing to maintain
        credible deterrence vis-à-vis any efforts by countries in the region to
        threaten Japan's security. It is also regarded as tangible evidence to
        show the U.S. commitment to sustain its active engagement in the
        Asia-Pacific region and to promote regional peace and stability.

The Stimson Center is a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank that seeks pragmatic solutions for some of the most important peace and security challenges around the world. Stimson was recently honored with a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

SOURCE Stimson Center