Deepened US-Japan alliance a risky sign for peace
Published: Jan 08, 2023 07:58 PM
Well-trained pawn Illustration: Vitaly Podvitski

Well-trained pawn Illustration: Vitaly Podvitski

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will meet with US President Joe Biden in Washington DC on January 13. This will be Kishida's first official trip to the US since he took office. Kishida said his meeting with Biden will be "very important" and "more significant than showing my face as G7 president," and "will show to the rest of the world an even stronger Japan-US alliance, which is a lynchpin of Japanese security and diplomacy." 

Since assuming office, the Kishida government has made substantial and transformative moves in promoting security strategy adjustments, which has attracted considerable attention. 

At the end of 2022, Japan released three new security documents, including a new National Security Strategy, which hyped regional threat and viewed neighboring countries such as China, North Korea and Russia as imaginary enemies. These documents served as excuses for Japan to greatly increase its military and defense spending, possess "counterstrike capabilities" and strengthen its security and defense alliance with the US. 

In recent years, Japan has been pushing forward the transformation of its security strategy and the upgrading of the Japan-US alliance. On the one hand, as the US vigorously promotes the implementation of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, especially the policy of containment on China, Japan's position in the US regional alliance system has risen. Japan's development of its defense capabilities and the promotion of Japan-US military integration are moves that complement and respond to the US' regional strategy. 

On the other hand, Japan sees the US' support for Japan's military expansion and continued tensions between China and the US as strategic opportunities for it to escape from postwar limitations. Japan hopes to provide "legitimacy" for its offensive military development by exaggerating external threats and hyping "a Taiwan emergency," and also tries to improve its international status by actively intervening in regional and international affairs in coordination with the US.

The continued strengthening of the Japan-US alliance underscores the high degree of their consensus against China. First, Japan and the US are highly consistent in their positioning of China. In 2022, the US and Japan successively issued national security strategy documents. The former smears China as "the most consequential geopolitical challenge," and the latter regards China as "the greatest strategic challenge." 

Second, both the US and Japan hope to enhance deterrence against China by deepening military cooperation. The two held a large-scale joint exercise "Keen Sword 23" in November, and they set up a "Joint Tactical Coordination Center" on Yonaguni island, which is only 110 kilometers away from the Taiwan island. 

Third, they are attempting to "play the Taiwan card to contain China." The Japan-US summit is likely to reemphasize the "importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits" and deliberately exaggerate "China's military threat." 

Fourth, Japan now not only assumes more responsibilities in the US-led cliques, but also courts European powers to intervene in regional affairs. 

It can be said Biden's visit to Japan in May 2022 and Kishida's visit to the US this time will pave the way for the rapid development of the Japan-US alliance. This is undoubtedly a very vigilant signal for the entire Asia-Pacific region. 

First, it will significantly increase the risk of clashes among regional powers. Japan and the US are determined to jointly intervene in regional affairs, especially by holding high-intensity bilateral and multilateral military exercises, strengthening coordinated combat capabilities, and conducting "freedom of navigation operations" to maintain their so-called rules-based regional order. Such moves will deliberately create conflicts and interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, which will trigger strong countermeasures. 

Second, they will stimulate countries in the region to develop their military forces in response, raising the risk of a regional arms race. Japan relies on the support of the US to change from a position of "defense" to "counterstrike," which is a move that undermines the postwar regional order and changes the military balance in the region. It will arouse strong opposition from neighboring countries and high vigilance against a revival of Japanese militarism. 

Third, it will be more difficult to see the sign of hope for China-Japan relations. Japan's dangerous moves to strengthen its military and intervene in the Taiwan question deviate from the principles and spirit of the four political documents and a series of important consensuses between China and Japan. These moves also seriously undermine the foundation of mutual trust in building China-Japan relations in the new era. 

Japan's blindly following the US strategy of containing China will jeopardize bilateral relations jointly built by China and Japan over the past decades, risking the relations to enter an even more difficult cycle.

The authors are fellows of the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies at the China Institute of International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn