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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of Japan in United States strategic policy for Northeast Asia Solomon, Russell Keith


The role of Japan in any U.S. strategic policy will be decided from the outcome of two debates. These two debates, the Japanese security policy debate and the American strategic policy debate, have been conducted within the leading groups of each country. The debates, both independently and at their points of interaction, illustrate the dynamic nature of the problem of forecasting the kind of security role Japan will perform in any future American strategic policy for the Northeast Asian region. Against a background of a Soviet regional military build-up and increasingly strident American calls for Japan to improve its defence capabilities, the Japanese debate signals a growing consensus for an enhanced security role. However, this trend must be severely qualified by the enduring impact of certain constitutional, political and economic constraints upon security policy-making. The importance that certain leading Japanese groups give to the domestic determinants of policy seems to have been discounted by many leading Americans. Any enhancement of Japan's security role must be accommodated by the Japanese domestic political environment; an environment which retains strong pacifist sentiments. The recent movement towards a military alliance between the two countries needs to be balanced against the continuing relevance that a good proportion of leading Japanese and the Japanese public hold for a minimum defence posture supported by the American security commitment, as embodied in the U.S.-Japan treaty. The American strategic policy debate is concerned with two main policy arguments. The unilateralist/maritime supremacy argument sees the world in essentially bipolar terms and seeks to augment American power so as to be able to overcome a potential enemy, solely through the use of U.S. power. The coalition/defence argument views the world in multipolar terms and believes that deterrence against an enemy should suffice and that this can best be achieved through the utilization and management of allied as well as American forces. The examination of the policy arguments within each of the debates reveals that each is in an insufficiently developed stage to greatly assist our predictions as to Japan's future security role in any American strategic policy. Arguments that Japan is willing to accept specific regional security are easily countered by equally valid ones which foresee no direct security role within any American strategic policy of the near future.

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