Japan Gets Smart

Matt Gurney is a columnist and editor at Canada’s National Post. Follow him on Twitter: @mattgurney


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How do you say, “Never mind, we take it back” in Japanese?

President Obama almost certainly found out during his recent trip to Asia. The four-country tour of America’s allies and trading partners in the region, based around the timing of the G20 Summit in South Korea, included stops in India, Japan, Indonesia and, of course, the G20 host country. Whether or not the trip was productive in terms of helping further along the economic recovery so desperately needed in the United States and throughout Asia, only time will tell. But what is already apparent is that Japan, a long-standing U.S. ally that had of late become suspicious of her protector, has fully re-embraced its alliance with America.

How quickly things can change. It was just over a year ago that the Democratic Party of Japan took power, promising to deliver a new era of leadership to a Japan that had become less concerned with the pacifism of previous generations, more eager to develop a foreign policy distinct from the United States. America’s power was not denied, per se, but it was balanced against an increasingly powerful China. Japan under the DPoJ, and its leader, Yukio Hatoyama, would balance its interests between America’s traditional dominance of the Western Pacific and the rise of China, particularly the rapid expansion of China’s naval power.

A key part in the Japanese break with America its desire to close, or at least relocate, the enormous Marine Corps base America has fielded on the Japanese island of Okinawa since the Second World War. The base has long been an irritant to the Japanese; it is loud, crowded and brings with it the problems that occur whenever a large body of military age men gather in one place — drunkenness, petty crime, fistfights, and, tragically, several well-publicized incidents of sexual assault by U.S. servicemen against Japanese civilians. The desire of the people of Okinawa to have the enormous military base in the middle of their bustling city moved or closed was understandable, but Mr. Hatoyama reached too far when he sought to make the removal of the base a key foreign policy goal.

After North Korean forces launched their unprovoked sneak attack against the South Korean warship Cheonan, killing 46 South Korean sailors (one rescuer would later drown while diving down to the wreck), Japan quickly realized that having a powerful ally with formidable naval forces at the ready is a good thing when confronting a paranoid, heavily armed Stalinist dictatorship such as North Korea. North Korea, which has a small arsenal of atomic weapons, has in the past fired long-range missiles over Japanese territory while conducting missile tests, an incredibly provocative act given Japan’s unique position as the only country in history to have sustained a nuclear attack.

Japan quickly backed off its insistence that the Marine Corps base at Okinawa be closed, and agreed that for the foreseeable future, the American presence would remain (though options to relocate some or all of the forces to another part of the island are being looked into). The decision proved fatal to Mr. Hatoyama’s political career. He resigned in the weeks after the announcement. He had been in power only eight months, and despite his calls for a rebalanced relationship with America and closer ties to China, left Japan as close to America as ever.

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  • USMCSniper

    Ironically, while the typical American is totally unaware that world government is just around the corner, China fully understands what is happening and is acting to position itself as one of the regional powerhouses and global hegemon. As reported in the September and December issues of DTT Digest last year, the UN and the international community is rapidly developing a plan to divide the world into economic and military regions to administer the emerging global governance. This has not gone unnoticed by China. The recent actions of China and its plans as laid out in the white paper clearly show that they will control one of the ten regions proposed by the UN Security Council in 1997. To America's shame, China is the most successful nation in the world at manipulating the American system, especially the current administration and Congress. To get most favored nation status China has enlisted Fortune 500 companies to fight their battles for them. "Some of these companies are now pulling the plug on certain grants they've been giving to think tanks when those think tanks become critical of the China trade or publish reports critical of human rights abuses in China

    • badaboo

      Oh , B>S> , UMCsniper , every damn Admin since Nkixon 's been kissing their arses . Who are YOU kidding . They've got big buisiness drooling at their profit prospects , and of course big buisiness is who fills the political coffers . Dont make this thing one sided as if it's "all Obama " , or else I'd have to call you a ignorant hypocrite.

  • Ron

    I was stationed at Okinawa from 1974 to 1975 during reversion when the U.S. returned the island of Okinawa back to Japan. Most Okinawa citizens respected and welcomed the U.S. military personnel, however there were some incidents of anti-American activity. The Marines that are (were) stationed there are the finest young men and women you can know. America's military men and women are the BEST IN THE WORLD ! !

  • badaboo

    The Japanese can be called anything but stupid .N.Korea is China's mad dog on a leash , and has been barking in Japan's direction .

  • http://freetradedoesntwork.com Ian Fletcher

    The real problem with our economy is free trade, which is killing jobs and running down our industrial base. *Real* economics doesn't suport free trade.

    See my book "Free Trade Doesn't Work" for details; the website is at http://www.freetradedoesntwork.com.