Equal Alliance? Sure! A US perspective on the Japan-US relationship imbalance

For years we’ve heard opposition Japanese politicians vaguely bemoan the unequal alliance between the US and Japan. Japan should speak up! many have said. Now that the DPJ has won the government and Yukio Hatoyama is the PM, this assertion has been repeated by the government, without explaining what this means. Richard Halloran agrees, and recently laid out ten ways how Japan could achieve an equal alliance with US with some honesty that I expect would make most Japanese policymakers nauseous. Summarized, these ten ways are:

1. Japan should take full responsibility for its own defense and abolish Article 9.

2. Emphasize naval forces to project power into the ocean and defend vital shipping routes, which are largely defended by the US navy.

3. Revise the Japan-US security treaty to oblige Japan to come to the defense of the US just as the US is obliged to help defend Japan.

4. Quadruple defense spending to $200 billion a year from its present $50 billion a year, to bring it up from 1% to 4% of GNP, the ratio in the US.

5. Enlarge the Self-Defense Force to 880,000 men and women from the present 240,000, commensurate with the US’s population-to-soldier ratio. Perhaps resort to conscription to achieve this.

6. Expel most, if not all, US forces from Japan, including Okinawa, and convert the bases to SDF use.

7. Remove the US nuclear umbrella, or extended deterrence, from Japan, and follow what one Hatoyama advisor calls for, relying on a world without nuclear weapons.

8. Take over development of missile defense from the US.

9. Establish a department like the CIA or MI-6 to collect and analyze political, economic and military intelligence.

10. Take the initiative in international negotiations.

67 thoughts on “Equal Alliance? Sure! A US perspective on the Japan-US relationship imbalance”

  1. I think all of these are good ideas, but I also think Japan will never do it. It’s not only that they are unwilling to spend the money, but also they would not want to press their people to serve in the military.

    The truth is that Japan is like a child that complains about having to remain under its parents’ troublesome umbrella, but is unwilling to step out from under it and go seek its own protection from the rain. The complaints will go on, and nothing will change because the responsibility in terms of cost and the demands it would place on the Japanese people are something that the government is unwilling to actually shoulder.

    The moaning and whining about the U.S. military presence is motivated by a desire to placate the people who are unhappy about it, and by an ignorance of what getting rid of it would actually cost Japan both socially and financially.

  2. I think Japan should just resolve itself to the being the quasi 51st state of the the United States Of America. It seems as though the U.S. has absolute control over Japan and will continue to have into the distant future.

    Prime minister Hatoyama’s recent attempt and trying to negotiate with the U.S. is a fair example of the complete inequality of the U.S. Japanese relationship.

    Basically the U.S. said either take the deal that we’ve given you or you’ll just get nothing at all. Even if you ask us to leave we are not going to so tough. We have a contract signed by the emperor himself to put our armed forces anywhere in any amount we like and that’s that.

    Poor Japan.

  3. Pegging the numbers for military spending, etc., to those of the US is simplistic. US military spending is far too large, and out of proportion to the rest of the world. How about making Japan’s defense commensurate to its true needs, premised on the absence of the US military bases, which in themselves are an irritant in Asia. The numbers of troops and weapons needed would be much smaller than Halloran suggests. Japan can make up for lack of military might by fostering good relations with its neighbors. This region does not have to be the shoot ’em up Wild West that Halloran assumes.

  4. You seem to assume that equality means Japan increasing its forces so that it could be equal in strength in some sense to the US – ie have the capability to wage wars on two fronts and have troops stationed around the globe, as America does. That would be unpalatable to just about everyone, including the Japanese, and unnecessary.

    Japan could do what it needs to defend itself. It has nuke power stations and space rockets. Duhhh, that’s a nuke missile, isn’t it?

    But then, that might not be soooo desireable, huh, for American conservatives or Japanese lefties, huh?

  5. The list of suggestions is pretty outrageous, but so is the idea that a few tiny changes would make the U.S.-Japan security relationship an “equal alliance.”

  6. 4% of GDP? What a ridiculous number. Taiwan’s military spending is about 3% , up from 2.85% of GDP in 2007, and that’s a country which is actually under a serious threat of invasion! For Japan, for which the prospect of a full-scale war is extremely far-fetched, it seems ridiculous to be spending an even higher proportion.

  7. It’s not reasonable to only look at this from a military point of view.
    If I were Japanese, which I am not, I would be a lot more interested to push the trade agenda then the military one.
    Like the totally unfair measures on the obligation to buy tons upon tons of US produce every year. If only those annoying rules would be lifted, that would be a gift for most Japanese.

  8. Japan does not expressly look at things like America’s military presence is keeping Japan out of a “Third Sino”.

    On the right, courtesy of whoever was feeding Tamogami, Japan sees itself, at worst, as the noble savior of the Eastern nations against Western Imperialism.

    On the left, history begins with Mao. America’s presence after World War II interfered with the natural march toward the revolution of the masses.

    The people in the center, where reality lies, have been totally shut out of the dialogue.

    Myself, I don’t think that America’s removal from Japan would lead to the Third Sino. It would be more something like this: http://hoofin.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/the-chinese-japanese-dialogue-once-america-leaves/

  9. Or…. Japan could go the route of Sweden and Switzerland. Keep Article 9, declare neutrality and up the SDF just a notch or so to make it clear that Japan will defend itself if pushed and has the means to do so.

  10. Wataru and Roy, I agree that using the US military spending is a silly metric, but I wouldn’t focus exclusively on that one point and ignore everything else being said.

  11. Let me give you a clue: US it’s not a model to imitate.

    4% of GNP? Only of a country with 0% expenses i’ll be proud of.

  12. the US forces have been pissed on much more in SK and there they are still, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  13. 1.3.9 is reasonable.But the rest is simply outrageous.
    If Halloran thinks “equal alliance” is fantasy,then why was he silent when Pentagon was demanding more “burden sharing” in the name of the “equal partnership”?

    I can also summarize why Japan should be more critical with it’s relation with the U.S.

    1.Security treaty with the U.S won’t be the hedge to the threat from China for Japan.Reading declassified documents of conversation between Kissinger and Zhou Enlai will strengthen your thought.

    2.We still haven’t heard any apology on being misinformed on WMD in Iraq.

    3.Chris Hill and his attempt to marginalize Japan on six party talks.

    4.American media.There have been quite a few Japanese PM who are very positive about strengthening the defense ties with the U.S.But every one of them has been severely attacked by the American media in relate with the war that ended 64 years
    ago,thus lost political credibility both in and out of the country.

    5.Double standard on nuclear proliferation policy.Giving green light to India and Pakistan and take blind eyes to Israeli’s bomb.

    6.Inappropriate use of Omoiyari Yosan or the existence of Omoiyari Yosan itself.

    7Turning down the Tokyo’s repeated request of F-22 sales.

    8.American being nonchalant on Japan’s multiple territorial disputes.

    9.American tendency of focusing too much on war on terror and less on conventional threat factor.

    10.America not being part of Asia.

  14. Many of the arguments coming from the US side are predicated on the idea that Japan is a freeloader and that it would be better for everyone if Japan was a strong ally and, like, not freeloading so much.

    This rests on an assumption that cultural affinity between democracies will eternally maintain America’s role as a global leader.

    The US, by extending deterrence and other things, has bought a firm ally in Asia, just as it has done in South Korea. Allies have to be bought as countries are not nearly as altruistic as people. By ending those arrangements the US would suddenly be looking at the possibility of an East Asia free trade zone locking them out and a Japanese defense alliance with China (or India) in the next 50 years. How about being marginalized in an alternate UN? Looking at the Japan list, just about all points are only feasible with Chinese cooperation as it is pretty clear that Japan is not going to be able to keep up in an arms race, given relaative growth rates. Going through with much of what is on that list would exacerbate any existing problems with China and very well make Japan less secure. The assumption in the US generally is that Japan should bite this bullet in order to become a bigger player in the world system in support of the United States. Why? A reasoned 100 year plan for Japanese security from an arch-realist perspective would be to foster good relations with China to the point where Japan could get nuclear weapons (or pinpoint satellite lasers or whatever is going in 2099) without causing a regional meltdown.

    That’s not even saying anything concerning the competition that the US would have to face from joint Chinese-Japanese designed weapons exports – the only things that America makes that we can unambiguously say are the best around.

    The US has a choice to make – big, bloated, regional power with creaking borders and an untenable consumer economy running trade deficits with everyone, shut out of Europe and Asia, or struggling to maintain its position as global hegemon for as long as possible and trying to work the system into a new phase of prosperity. I think we all know how this is going to go. As long as the American establishment is totally predictable in its vision of the country’s global role, other countries like Japan will be able to have their cake (deterrence without the mess) and eat it too (rhetorically teeing off on the US). If anything, way too much of the US discussion rests on the assumption that America is fundamentally likable and that more powerful democracies means more helpers. Countries cooperate with the United States because they have something to gain. If that is gone, we’ll be looking at a different world.

  15. Curzon, my critique goes beyond the amount of spending. The notion that Japan must replace the US approach with an identical one is wrong-headed. I basically prefer an Asia-centric Japan cozying up to its neighbors and de-emphasizing military might.

  16. Approaching this issue with angry demands for radical action seems somewhat counterproductive.

    Mike Mochizuki and Mike O’Hanlon have a much less extreme version of the same line of reasoning here:


    Provided the United States could improve its contingency access to other airfields on Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan for use in a possible crisis or war, our view is that the United States could make do without Futenma or a substitute. Losing the airfield altogether (with modest numbers of flights for the residual Marine presence occurring from alternative facilities in Okinawa and other prefectures, perhaps) is not a preferred option but a tolerable one.

    However, it makes no sense to keep more than 15,000 Marines on Okinawa without a dedicated airfield. So if we were to lose the Futenma airfield and forgo any possible replacement, Japan should do even more than it now intends by way of financing the restructuring of the Marine presence.

    Because of these military alternatives, Mr. Hatoyama is right not to feel streamrolled by the arguments of defense professionals and establishment figures that Futenma or its successor is militarily crucial to the future of the alliance. But his concerns about the burden that Okinawans have borne for hosting U.S. military forces and bases need to be placed in a larger perspective. Although many Western nations led by the United States are asking their soldiers to risk their lives on global military security operations, including the war in Afghanistan from which the Sept. 11, 2001, attackers against America originated, Japan is not doing so.

    Mr. Hatoyama is right to insist on a more equal partnership with the United States and a greater voice in the alliance, but this requires that Japan contribute much more to global security.

    So it comes down to this: Mr. Hatoyama, as the leader of a sovereign state, has every right to rethink his country’s previous commitments, just as he already has in replacing Japan’s Indian Ocean resupply operations for U.S. Navy ships there with a larger aid package for Afghanistan. But that latter policy suggests the way forward here, too: If Mr. Hatoyama is to walk away from a deal others in Japan and the United States have worked hard to create, he must do something real, and big and historic in timely fashion instead.

    Beyond funding any American military redeployment, Japan might send substantial numbers of peacekeeping troops to Sudan and Congo. These troops are allowed to use force to protect not only themselves but civilians. Some Japanese would argue such deployments would require constitutional changes, others would not. This would be an issue for Japanese to resolve in the coming months as they see fit.


  17. What do the Japanese people want ?
    Oh I suppose that doesn’t matter when you only
    wear camoflague-tinted spectacles.

    Yes Japanese imperialism was horrendous.
    But the country has been nuked to shite and then
    occupied by a herd of bovine Americans (including a child rapist)
    for the last 50 years.

    Regarding *3*., there is no “threat” to
    the U.S, and does not need Japan to protect it
    (O.K unless you count the people who the U.S sold weapons to,
    who might be scary for about a day).
    Who in their right mind would attack the U.S ?

    Having read through the list again, the myopic view seems to be
    “Japan must be more like the U.S. or bend over even further so
    we can fuck them up the arse even harder”.

    Maybe folks, it’s time to let the non-military people have a go.

  18. Yes, I’m not surprised to see this coming from an old Cold War dog like Halloran. It is the type of narrative that you heard from many Americans, and not a few Japanese (Miyazawa Kiichi, for example) from time to time when they wanted to point out that the status quo is just fine, thank you very much.

    “Don’t like things the way they are? How about you spend a ridiculous amount on your military, like we do! See, I told you so!”

    I have more sympathy for the Mochizuki and O’Hanlon position, mainly because I think U.N. sanctioned peacekeeping missions (even including combat in certain situations) fall well within not just current, but long-standing interpretations of Article 9. Also, apart from causing trouble, I have absolutely no idea what the Marines do on Okinawa.

    What people in the U.S. need to do, especially these guys working for think tanks who claim to be helping to “manage the alliance” is use their wonderful Japanese skills to explain to the Japanese people via the Yomiuri the strategic purpose for Futenma/Henoko. There is virtually NO understanding as to why these bases are so important. With the South Korean armed forces some 650,000 strong (plus 3 million reserves) sitting next to 25,000 U.S. forces on the penninsula, and Taiwan likely to suffer a hail of missiles days before the Chinese invade, I’m not to certain why a rapid reaction invasion force of 35,000 is needed to deal with the two most probable contingencies in the area anyway. There may be a clear strategic rationale, but I wish somebody would explain it to me.

    On that note, I actually think Hatoyama hasn’t been a bad leader. He said before the election that everyone needed time to figure out the best way forward on this issue. His American partners put the screws on him almost even before he took office, and I hear they are trying to play nice now they know he won’t budge. He has expended considerable political capital, but it seems that he has kept his promise.

  19. By the way, when are we going to kick this habit of counting defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP? Swaziland, the Maldives, Angola, Mauritania, Eritrea, and Yemen spend more on their defence as measured in proportion to the United States. Would they be better partners in coalitions of the willing than Canada, New Zealand and Spain, which spend roughly the same proportion as Japan?

  20. “Approaching this issue with angry demands for radical action”

    Indeed. The list shows remarkably little awareness of Japanese public opinion. Calling for a draft in Japan would be like calling for an immediate reduction in the US defense budget by 95% or, like Obama suddenly up and saying that he will outlaw private insurers and pay for universal health care by upping taxes on the richest 0.5% of Americans by 120%. Some things are just too far out of the realm of possible debate.

    In any case, even the Brookings piece comes off as a sort of threat. In my mind, losing Japan as an ally is the first step toward the US being ostracized from Europe and Asia in the long term. This assumption that the US is selflessly helping out an ungrateful Japan who has pushed for more one time too many is a drag on the forward thinking of too many US intellectuals. The LDP days and are over and it is time for cold war assumptions to go with them. Time to rework things from the bottom up.

    Some of the other ones need a LOT more discussion –
    “Revise the Japan-US security treaty to oblige Japan to come to the defense of the US” Elephant in the room – what exactly constitutes “defense of the US”? I feel that if China unilaterally attacked the US, that Japan should “come to the defense of the US”. But what if the US feels that it should declare “war” on everyone everywhere who fits into a vaguely defined non-state actor category like “terrorist”?

    “Maybe folks, it’s time to let the non-military people have a go.”

    America has lots of cultural pull in Japan. Obama is really popular. It doesn’t cost the US gov boots on the ground dollars to extend the deterrent and hardly anyone in Japan seems to complain that much about the carrier fleet which is, to my mind, hundreds if not thousands of times the force projection potential of the Marines in Okinawa. The Okinawa presence fits neither US interests nor the new milieu of the alliance. Time to give up those officer’s golf courses.

  21. Bryce, re “the strategic purpose for Futenma/Henoko”,
    it might be worth remembering that many occupying forces
    throughout history use male brutality including sexual
    violence to weaken those being occupied.

    While I wouldn’t say that anything of this scale is happening in
    Okinawa, try justifying to a Japanese person why their hard-earned
    tax money should go on the omiyari yosan to support
    noise pollution, violent crime including murder and rape,
    the possible concreting over of the ocean in an area that could
    be the most lucrative tourist gem in Japan’s crown…

    As Bryce has pointed out, with so many more trigger happy marines
    over in Korea, and more and more bases and troops to come
    in Iraq and Afghanistan, why the need to keep Okinawan bases ?

    It couldn’t be anything to do with some kind of psychological
    pressure could it ?

  22. Arguing the rationale of the above ten points in Halloran’s context is ludicrous. If one wanted to point the finger at a particular nation for being a free-rider of a US security umbrella, the indictment would extend much farther than Japan. I believe Obama himself said something along these lines during his Nobel speech – that the “US has underwritten global security for the past half-century” or something to that degree. Overlooking the possible problematic aspects of that statement for convenience’s sake – extending Halloran’s analysis beyond Japan would require that all nations who wish to deal with the U.S. on an equal basis need to displace all U.S. forces and basically ignore any concept of collective defense.

    Let me jump in my time machine! To the first half of the 20th century we go!
    I am sure that is not what any American policy maker would like.

    Looking at Halloran’s criteria for treating other nations with some sense of equality is bare-boned ugliness when its in-vogue context is stripped away.

    Quite frankly, even if Halloran is trying to tell Japan to be more “American” in their defenses, I am not sure what standard he is even using – it doesn’t really resemble the most recent SOFA agreements – moving away from garrison states to more mobile and lighter forces.

    Bryce is right, and others echo what Bryce says. There are some real disparities in the equality of the US-Japan alliance, but there is also a major perceived one due to poor public diplomacy and public relations. The U.S. does not make a case to regular Japanese people on at least the purpose, let alone any tangible/intangible results of the U.S. presence in Japan. I have heard this brought up by Japanese officials in the U.S. at least twice the past Fall. The deficit of U.S. public diplomacy is not unique to Japan either.

    If a case is there, make it to the right people. Otherwise it becomes blatantly hypocritical for politicians on one side to demand politicians on another side to make politically damaging decisions. If US success in Japan is any measure for the future success of public diplomacy in regards to military involvement in the Asia-Pacific goes, then it is probably in greater benefit to the US to rethink how they carry out the US-Japan alliance rather than Japan.

  23. Martin, while I think that you can overstate the unpleasantness of the Marine presence in Okinawa, I agree with you that their absence would do wonders for tourism. There has been a direct correlation between events like 9/11 and the beginning of the Iraq War and a decline in visits to Okinawa.

    I would love to see the omoiyari yosan $$$ directed into environmentally friendly tourist development for the islands.

  24. “As Bryce has pointed out, with so many more trigger happy marines
    over in Korea, and more and more bases and troops to come
    in Iraq and Afghanistan, why the need to keep Okinawan bases ?”

    I wouldn’t go putting words in my mouth. What I want is a clear strategic justification for their presence. I find your argument–the idea that they are there to show the Japanese people, through the Okinawans, who is boss–frankly disgusting.

    And it’s so silly that I don’t think I need to disprove it.

  25. Erm, well perhaps that’s because you can’t disprove it.
    But that’s a convenient way out isn’t it.

    I’d say their presence in Okinawa is certainly part of showing
    who the daddy is.

  26. I also wonder if we don’t make too much out of Omoiyari yosan. In broad figures it’s about $2 billion, which is roughly 5 percent of the defence budget. If we can go back on my cynicism about defence to GDP ratios that is around 0.05 percent of the national budget. I would imagine that if the American bases (not just Futenma, omoiyari yosan covers all the bases) weren’t around, Japan would need to spend much more than an extra $2b on their defence, although nowhere near the figure that Halloran suggests. From a pure cost/benefit analysis, if Omoiyari yosan is the price for keeping troops in Japan, and if Tokyo wants them there, then it makes sense.

    And as I understand it, the vast majority of OY goes to Japanese employees on bases and projects conducted by Japanese contractors. That’s actually the bit about the program I dont like. It essentially encourages a type of dependence on the bases (moral hazard?) and warps the argument for their existence, which should really be about strategic purpose.

  27. Fair point, but can you say 2 billion is insignificant really ?
    2 billion could turn the Okinawan archipelago into the
    tourist magnet that it deserves to be, on a
    par with Thailand minus the drugs.

    It would revitalize the local economy and take away
    the need for relying on base jobs, and bring in
    a lot of tourist yen. It would be a further step towards
    some kind of osmosis internationzalin for Japan rather than
    just Monbusho and JET.

    “Martin, while I think that you can overstate the unpleasantness of the Marine presence in Okinawa”

    Maybe you are right.

  28. “the idea that they are there to show the Japanese people, through the Okinawans, who is boss”

    What better way to show the Japanese people who is boss than to put most of the troops in a part of Japan that 95% of the population scarcely gives a second thought to?

  29. I think that most of the OY goes to cover the rent for the land that the bases are on. Most of that goes to local landholders.

    I’m of two minds about the tourist potential Martin – there is certainly a limit to the amount of tourist infrastructure that Japan can support – witness the bleached skeletons of no end of bubble era monstrosities dotting the landscape. In addition, the outlying islands of Okinawa are where it is at tourist wise and they are already well developed. I’m afraid that nothing is going to save Okinawa from moderate-severe levels of poverty, although pouring in the 2 billion couldn’t hurt, especially if done in an environmentally conscious way.

    “kind of osmosis internationzalin for Japan rather than
    just Monbusho and JET.”

    1 in 10 children born in the Tokyo area has at least one foreign parent. The Japanese government doesn’t need to force anything, especially in the periphery – witness the thriving Korean and Chinese communities in Fukuoka.

  30. “with so many more trigger happy marines over in Korea”

    Now the last time I checked,the only “marines” in Korea was the local MROK.there were no USMC in South Korea to my understanding.
    Anyway USMC wants to be in Okinawa for symbolic reasons.It’s a legendary battlefield taken by the valor of fallen marines plus only oversea base for USMC.

    Anyone ever read pieces written by Taoka Shunji,the former staff writer for AERA,saying there’s no additional need for Japanese defense budget to fill the U.S force’s vacuum since many of the US forces facilities in Japan are basically for the expeditionary purposes ranging from Korea to Diego Garcia and not entirely for the defense of Japan?

  31. “Erm, well perhaps that’s because you can’t disprove it.”

    Oh gosh. I guess I should have expected that. OK. Here goes.

    For years the U.S. Armed Forces have been trotting out a line which says that there is a lower rate of crime reported to Japanese police among their troops in Japan than that of the ordinary Japanese population. This is a bit of a canard because 1) under SOFA there are different standards of procedural justice for the two groups (“can’t catch me, I’m on base”), which would probably lead to less confidence in the reporting of crimes committed by U.S. troops; and 2) the stats don’t include crimes perpetrated on base, where most U.S. troops spend most of their time, and where, according to one study conducted in the 1990s, crime rates are much higher in Japan than anywhere else. The point is, despite the fact that there stats are pretty transparent, the U.S. Armed Forces still tries to use them to prove that their presence is benign. And it is actually an effective. Many Japanese have repeated them to me in conversations on this subject. In addition, there are all manner of PR bodies set up by the various branches of the U.S. military in Japan. If the purpose, as you claim, was to strike fear into the hearts of the “occupied,” then none of this would exist.

  32. “” 95% ” are you sure about that ?”

    Look up some lists of major issues for Japanese voters – Okinawan bases don’t factor highly. Keep in mind that if Japanese voters really, really cared about the base situation in Okinawa, they would have voted out the LDP in the early 1970s. Understandably, they voted on issues closer to home.

    Apart from when a major incident happens, mainland reporting on Okinawa is pretty slight. There isn’t as much mainstream interest as you think.

  33. For Taoka, I’ve read this –
    He and I think alike.

  34. “Keep in mind that if Japanese voters really, really cared about the base situation in Okinawa, they would have voted out the LDP in the early 1970s.”

    that’s 30 years ago by the way. I don’t think you can really use this argument to suggest that things are exactly the same now as they were then.
    The coverage on Okinawa always includes any demos that are held so I think that interest is probably higher than you think.

  35. “Keep in mind that if Japanese voters really, really cared about the base situation in Okinawa, they would have voted out the LDP in the early 1970s. ”

    I was thinking about removing the word”Japanese voters” and change it with “Chalmers Johnson” and “voted out the LDP” with “written down in academic papers instead of Sorge spy ring”.

  36. “He and I think alike.”

    So do I.But I must also add that Taoka isn’t very popular among many reporter and commenter that covers defense issues in major news outlet.There are MANY anti-Taoka out there and think he is out of touch with political reality.

  37. I know the terminology is a little ridiculous as it is all paid for by Japan anyway, but wasn’t the rent for bases provided under the SOFA, and therefore is not technically OY? OY, as I understand it, was the cash to compensate for the rising yen that Kanemaru Shin promised in 1978. In the MOD stats for 在日米軍駐留経費負担, the official name for OY, rent isn’t mentioned, and labour is the biggest expense by far:


    Total labour costs also seems to be higher than rent:


  38. Bryce, thanks for the explanation

    That’s the whole point – a wolf in sheep’s clothing –
    with PR bodies to mantain a good image and
    surpressed crime statistics.

    Look at the reaction to Futenma decision
    “unfortunate” –


    “It’s unfortunate that you disagree with us because we are your overlords
    and will get what we want eventually”

  39. “That’s the whole point – a wolf in sheep’s clothing – with PR bodies to mantain a good image and surpressed crime statistics.”

    Well, no, that is not the whole point. The whole point is that if they really wanted to create an environment of fear, as the scenario in your conspiracy theory goes, then they wouldn’t even bother with PR, or if they did they would be trying to emphasise how scary they are. I suspect I am arguing against a brick wall here though, albeit, one that likes to bait and switch, which is why I should go back to my earlier comment about not even bothering trying to disprove you.

  40. The Okinawa Reversion treaty was only signed in 1971 (coming into effect in 2971), and if it hadn’t been (with a guarantee to maintain the bases), then Okinawa would have remained under US rules for at least a few more years while different conditions were negotiated. So I don’t see how there’s any scenario under which the Japanese government could have ejected the US bases from Okinawa in the early 70s, whether the LDP or the JCP were in power.

  41. I am not suggesting a “conspiracy theory” as you put it,
    I’m saying that their is some significance in the unnecessary
    occupation of Okinawa. The way that the troops behave
    as they want without fear of serious reprimand. The way
    the Japanese government are expected to go along with
    decisions like Futenma.
    I’ve never said anything about striking fear into the populace.
    That seems to be your take on it.

    You don’t do yourself any favours with comments like “I’m arguing with a brick wall that likes to bait and switch so I am going to ignore it”
    is that how you treat people in real life (if you’ve got one)

  42. Martin, with this sentence:

    “Bryce, re “the strategic purpose for Futenma/Henoko”, it might be worth remembering that many occupying forces throughout history use male brutality including sexual violence to weaken those being occupied.”

    and this one:

    “It couldn’t be anything to do with some kind of psychological pressure could it ?”

    you seem to be suggesting that the troops are there purely to freak out the Okinawans. I’m not sure of any compelling strategic reason for their presence, but I am pretty sure that is not it. In any case, if I have misunderstood you, I apologise.

  43. **end of hostilities**

    lets agree to disagree on this one.
    mine is after all more of a hunch
    I have been lucky / unlucky enough to be friends
    with a crew of military men and they sure
    did behave like they had carte blanche to do
    exactly as they pleased as this was part
    of the deal.

  44. “If you guys are going to have a flame war, take it outside!”

    I was wondering Adamu.Why are we having flame thrower type these days.
    Is it because MTF attracting more readership or something?

  45. Hey its much easier than all this.
    The US threatens to put a 100% tariff in all japanese exports,
    and you have the base at Henoko or in central Tokyo built in two weeks.

  46. Readership is actually flat, but we do attract new commenters from time to time. I think the Jake Adelstein interview brought in some new people. They are certainly welcome.

  47. Bryce.

    I was wondering.And this is the thesis that have been raised by Ogawa Kazuhisa et.al for ages.But what if Japan stops entire OY,would American want to leave Japanese bases?

    I already have my own answer and Pentagon wouldn’t want lose the largest air base and best naval facility in the west Pacific.Which is why Japan handlers are turning fear mongers these days.

  48. I hope I don’t have a reputation as an old flamer from way back…

    Ace, you are pretty much on the money, and I don’t think if it were a question of finances Futenma would go either. Which makes it all the more puzzling.

    I read in a Shukan Asahi article the other day that it was the Americans who originally posed the alternative of consolidating Futenma with Kadena, but the Japanese govt objected because it would mean fewer public works. But then again, that was the Shukan Asahi.

  49. I have my reason to think Shukan Asahi is correct.I heard the same story from one of my superior at my work who knew Richard B.Myers,Bush era chairman of the joint chief of staffs and one time commander of Yokota air base,in person.This guy told me that the idea came from people around Donald Rumsfeld and it was part of the U.S military transformation that Rumsfeld had in mind.And it was indeed Japanese had turned down the proposal since there were no public works since there would be no new facility to build,meaning there’s no candy to Okinawa.

    Taoka Shunji had written a piece on this Kadena idea may come back to life in last week’s issue of AERA magazine,claiming that previous environmental assessment conducted around U.S bases in Okinawa count out would-be-created engine noises from V-22 Osprey,currently non-existent in USFJ.Thus become new explosive issues for Futenma.
    There’s no chance that new facility in camp Henoko would be ready by the time of V-22 stationing in either Futenma or Henoko in very near future.Thus the only alternative would be Kadena.

  50. Maybe they don’t need any incentive to move anyway. It seems that the Mayor of Ginowan has been running around Nagatacho trying to get politicians to look at “evidence” he has that the Marines intend to move their entire operations–not just the command and control segments as previously stated– to Guam. The pet conspiracy theory is that they will stick around till Henoko is built, then leave Okinawa, allowing the Navy to take over Henoko. Geitner’s talks with Fujii in November had nothing to do with economic management, apparently, and all to do with attempting to squeeze as much yen for these projects as possible out of the Japanese.

    This, I think, is why the U.S. needs to state clearly what it is that the Marines are doing in Okinawa. There is just so much speculation floating around.

  51. Further to Bryce’s post: there was recently a bit on the evening news about the whole issue, and a US analyst/advisor to the DOD said that official policy was not to move both the Marine ground troops and the command section to Guam, as having both in one spot would make them a “target” and the US was not willing to have such a target on Guam.

    Left unasked, unfortunately, was the glaringly obvious follow-up question: so why has it been OK to have them both on Okinawa for all these years?

  52. Maybe because they don’t care as much if the target is foreign soil? Seriously I can’t think of any explanation that isn’t just sarcastic.

  53. I’ve seen a few recent comments to the effect that the Marines are on Okinawa to get attacked and stoke American public opinion for massive retaliation. In this view, they are pretty much like a big bulls-eye painted on Okinawa.

  54. >I’ve seen a few recent comments to the effect that the Marines are on Okinawa to get attacked and stoke American public opinion for massive retaliation.

    Well, that’s the “tripwire” theory that even some in the military pull out every now and then. But it is more formulated in terms of potential enemies knowing that they will bring all hell down on themselves if they attack Japan (and any sensible surprise attack on Japan would try to take the American forces out before they can deploy), thus the enemy is deterred. The formal explanation, then, paints the marines as a “press here to open a can of whoopass on your head” button, rather than a target.

    >a US analyst/advisor to the DOD

    The problem is, he isn’t anybody official. I’m sure he is right, but for people with their own ideas he may as well be talking out his ass.

    >so why has it been OK to have them both on Okinawa for all these years?

    Because North Korea didn’t have missiles, the Soviet Union was pretty predictable, and Tokyo didn’t care that much before 1995.

  55. Even considering the tripwire theory, it still makes more strategic sense to have them split up. It’s not like attacking a smaller base wouldn’t set off the tripwire.

  56. Actually, they are already split up. There are some in Iwakuni. And they seem to be preparing for “bad guys” over in Korea.


    “It still makes more strategic sense to have them split up”

    Yeah, but I’m not sure it makes logistical sense to have your command units separate from your combat units. Still, why not put them all on Guam? Then they could also engage in international training missions there with Australia, Thailand, Japan, etc, which I believe is what the Marines spend a lot of their time doing.

  57. Iwakuni…..Been there in one of “Peace education”school trip to Hiroshima.Though we were watching the Marines from the other side of the fense.
    Marine stationing in Iwakuni is pretty logical since it’s close to Sasebo and they have moved AV-8b Harriers about thirteen years ago,if my memories are correct.

    Not exactly sure about this trip wire theory,but George Kennan had an idea of keeping Okinawa under American control as “choking point” against Japan.

Comments are closed.