Post-Cold War Security of Japan through ARF
The end of the Cold War brought a dramatic turn in the world history. The collapse of bipolar balance brought the need to normalize poor diplomatic relations and also to reassure and mature pre-existing strong diplomatic ties between states. Japan was certainly not an exception to this need. The importance of playing a lager role in regional and global security as a way of ensuring its security interests grew in Japan as the proceeding balance of power, or pre-existing security, became unreliable to her. Indeed, she initiated the regional security entity called the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) to strengthen Asia-Pacific security. But why did Japan take the role to propose such an institution? What is Japans stake in this regional security entity? Why is the entity based on multilateralism? And finally, how much can the ARF achieve to strengthen Asia security?
Questions like these are crucial to be answered in examining Japans security relations with her neighbor Asian countries. In this paper, I argue that multilateral regional security entity is crucial and is the only way to secure herself in the post-Cold War era. The ARF, thereby, is a necessary international institution to succeed in guaranteeing profitable diplomatic relations for Japan as well as other countries including Asian and non-Asian states. For Japan, the end of the Cold War meant a shift from reactive state to cautious leader to become a normal country, as a politician Ichiro Ozawa puts, that is acceptable to the world and the ARF is the best possible opportunity for Japan to attain such a goal.
During the Cold War, Japan pursued an isolationist and much of a passive strategy in regional security. Much of her effort has been rather put into economic strength based on the Yoshida doctrine found after the defeat of the World War II. To begin with, Japan has been relying heavily on the US in terms of security issues and thus entrusted her stake in regional security in American hands. First of all, despite Japans renunciation of military force, her nuclear deterrence has been guaranteed by the US. Yukio Satoh states in Asian-Pacific Process of Stability and Security American nuclear forces will continue to be the only deterrent Japan can rely on against any nuclear threat, be it from the Soviet Union, China or elsewhere (Satoh, 38). In terms of nuclear deterrence, US-Japan security arrangement has been providing an indispensable amount of security guarantee to Japan.
Second, Japans sea-lane has been protected by US military presence in the Pacific. According to Satoh from the Persian Gulf region, Japan imports about seventy percent of her oil (Satoh, 38). Then he continues, given that the scope of defense operations by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces is limited to a distance of 1,000 nautical miles, Japan has to depend upon the American capability to ensure freedom of navigation in order to secure the inflow of oil and other vital commodities (Satoh, 38). Therefore, Japans preservation of her interests has once again assured by her alliance with the US.
Third, much of Asian security relations have been relying on the US. The United States bilateral security arrangements with many Asian countries have indirectly linked Japan with other Asia states. Using the hub-and spokes model, the US overall became a go-between for Asian nations including Japan. The model was based on US security treaties with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand. Gary Smith in Mulitlateralism and Regional Security in Asia: The ARF and APEC7s Geopolitical Value notes, the US is the largest partner in each of these security arrangements and everything flows back and forth to Washington (Smith). In another words, Japans diplomatic relations with her neighbor countries has been severely relying on the US and at the same time, she passively has been serving as a platform for American security arrangements in Asia.
Furthermore, there has been the problem of mistrust between Japan and other Asian countries since WWII, which inevitably brought Japan to be passive and indirect in involvement of her regional security matters. Japans past record of brutal aggression for her grand plan of the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity during the war has harbored deep suspicions about Japan among Asian countries. The bitter memories of the Japanese annexation of Korea and its military invasion of China and other countries still affect her diplomatic relations with these countries. Any form of rebuilding military presence in Japan will still be threat to many of her neighbors and thus, Japan can easily provoke a tense arms race in the region.
For example, during the 1970s, Japan saw an opportunity playing a larger role in regional politics after the American withdrawal from Indo-China. However, this soon caused anti-Japanese riots during then-Prime Minister Tanakas visit to Southeast Asia in 1974. The growing economic strength and US withdrawal from the region reminded the vivid memories of Japans aggression during WWII and became threatening to Asian countries. Japan thus announced the Fukuda doctrine, once again renouncing any intention to become a military power.
In order to reassure this doctrine, it became important for Japan to maintain alliance with the US and play a passive role behind the US. China sees merit in the US-Japan alliance in terms of preventing Japan from becoming a big military power, claims Satoh (Satoh, 36). Japans formation of alliance with the US gives credibility that she will not become a big military power to her neighbors. Japan during the Cold War did not need to and also could not afford to take a serious role in Asian security.
However, Japans passive regional security involvement came under question with the end of the Cold War. The collapse of Soviet Union noted the withdrawal of the US presence in Asia. As the Cold War faded, US troop declined from 141,000 in 1988 to 98,000 in 1992 (Johnstone). This was accompanied with her withdrawal from Philippines in 1991. At the same time, the US was facing severe economic recession. She faced a budgetary problem to maintain military presence in Asia as well as domestic argument that Washington should concentrate on domestic problems before international security arrangements. Thus, Japans security guarantee by the US started to become unreliable.
At the same time, Chine emerged as a major power in Asia. Chinas economic and military power hinted a threat to Japan after the war. Without guaranteed US protection, Japan became exposed to too much danger from her neighbor power. Thus, at the same time Japan needed to secure good relationship with China, she also thought China as a possible alternative to the United States. This idea was well accompanied with her increasingly successful economic cooperation with other Asian countries. By 1991, Japan exported more to Asia than to the United States, notes Chris Johnstone in Japan and Asia: What Happened? (Johnstone). Particularly with China, Japan imports a large volume of raw materials. Johnstone claims that approximately 50 percent of Japanese trade is now with Asia (Johnstone). Thus, potential US withdrawal from protecting Japan coinciding with Japans increasing economic transaction with Asia shifted Japans focus to partnerships in security.
Japan faces another threat from North Korea. Recently there has been a suspicion of North Korean attempt to possess nuclear weapons. Satoh proposes, a prospect that North Korea might possess nuclear weapons has destabilizing implications not only for the security of North East Asia but for global security (Satoh, 39-40). Indeed, this includes Japans national security. Thus, Japans focus on better diplomatic relations with her neighbors should be strengthened for her security. More precisely, increase in the information, especially concerning military capability, of neighbor countries became extremely crucial for Japans security.
Side-by-side with these changes made with the fading of the Cold War, Japan was also torn between the conflicting American and Asian demands. During the Gulf War, Americans demanded Japans personnel contribution to the American-led forces. However, when Japanese government introduced the UN Peace Cooperation Corp. (UNPC) bill in the Diet, which authorized the dispatch of the Self Defense Force (SDF) to the Gulf for non-combat logistical support, it unleashed a violent flow of criticism from Asian countries (Midford, 375). The most noticeable criticism came from China and Korea, reflecting their most severe damage during WWII. The same thing happened when Japan dispatched her troops overseas to participate in UN peacekeeping operations in 1992.
As one of the worlds powerful countries, at least in economy, Japan has realized that it would have to expand its role in international security, says Paul Midford in Japans leadership role in East Asian security multilateralism: the Nakayama proposal and the logic of reassurance (Midford, 376). However at the same time, she also realized that a larger security role, including even modest steps as SDF participation in UN peacekeeping operations, would require extensive reassurance of Asian countries, Midford continues (Midford, 376). It became crucial for Japan to clearly identify herself in the world. Indirect monetary aids to foreign countries became no longer adequate for one of the worlds powerful nation. Her strong commitment to international security became necessary and to do so, she first had to reassure Asian nations that she was not assuming a military role in the international community. The result was the construction of a broader framework for both regional and global security needs.
Under these circumstances, Japan, thus, needed better relations with her neighbors in the post-Cold War era. However any formal military alliance with a specific neighbor country can easily provoke oppositions from other neighbor countries. At the same time, the US and Japan were not willing to give up their alliance that they have formed at the end of WWII. Thus, Japans interest in regional security had to be achieved in a way that satisfied both Asian and the US demands.
Conveniently, there had been talks about formulating an Asian regional security entity among the intellectuals of the ASEAN Institutes of Strategic and International Studies (ASEAN-ISIS), and in ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference (PMC), which is a back-to-back ASEAN conference inviting foreign ministers of Japan, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and EU. In the 1990 PMC, then Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans proposed a forum to build confidence and patterns of cooperation, not only between old friends but between old adversaries (Dosch, 6). In the same conference, Canada suggested Asia-Pacific region to have an institution where security and cooperation matters can be discussed modeling after CSCE, Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Moreover, Japan agreed to Soviet Union proposal to commence a bilateral dialogue on security in 1990 (Midford, 377). According to Midford, this did not encourage Japan to start diplomatic relations with China and South Korea but may have encouraged the Japanese Foreign Ministry to separate the concept of a security dialogue from more encompassing, and implicitly threatening concepts, such as arms control or collective security. Thus Japans first concrete experience with a security dialogue may have encouraged policy-makers to experiment with a new concept of security multilateralism: multilateral dialogue (Midford, 377). Japan was encouraged to change her course on security by many outside pressures.
The form of multilateralism met Japans incentive in regional security. Firstly, important security partners of Japan would be all inclusive at the same time, avoiding increase in distrust from any particular neighbor country. The idea would involve many neighbor countries, who are in adversaries, to gradually build confidence as partners and as a region as a whole. After the confidence building, each country can progress to solve the conflicting security issues to increase regional ties. Initiating a place for Asian countries to come together seemed much credible than directly trying to solve conflicts and distrust among nations.
Secondly, by inviting the US to participate in the regional security, Asia reduces the risk factor of volatile change of balance-of-power in the region. By this, Japan can maintain her strong alliance with the US. Ultimately, Japans security is guaranteed by the US nuclear deterrence. Her tie with the US is indispensable, despite her better relations with other Asian countries. Also, as mentioned before, Asian countries see the US-Japan alliance as a way of preventing Japan from rising to a military power. The US has acted as a balancer of power in Asia and this will remain the same, as she is involved in the regional security. As long as the US monitors Japanese military strength, distrust of Japan by her neighbor countries would not worsen. A multilateral security institution including the US membership would, thus, sustain the status quo of balance-of-power of Asia.
The US will gain her security interest from this multilateralism as well. Through this institution, the USs burden of being the negotiator of the whole Asia-Pacific region would reduce as Asia would gradually mature to solve their problems by their own. At the same time, her continuous involvement security relations through the multilateral conference would not only give her the privilege to maintain bilateral relations with Japan amongst others but also a chance to build a partnership with China. Henceforward, the multilateral dialogues met the security interests of the US as well.
For other Asian countries, they gained voice in the regional security affairs, preventing US-Japan alliance to take a strong leadership role in their security. New relations became possible for many nations without antagonizing either Japan or China. There seemed to be fair amount of reasons for every country to engage in the security entity for everyone.
Finally, through the confidence building measure of a multilateral system, Japan as well as other members would gain military information of others. Japans security relations with her neighbors have been antagonized and instable due to her aggression in the 1930s and 40s. Distrust from her neighbors has put Japan under a constant retaliation threat. Thus, military capability transparency was crucial for Japan to gain security in the region. Even in General context, realistically speaking, military transparency is what every country can benefit for her security. Therefore, through multilateral security entity, every member, including Japan, mutually gains a piece of military information of others without hostile mood.
An Asian security entity originally suggested under ASEAN, Japan thus pushed for a multilateral security system under ASEAN. The result is the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1993. The forum aims to develop a more predictable constructive pattern of relations for the Asia-Pacific through political and security cooperation (Ortuoste). In another words, it is not a collective defense organization, nor is it a collective security entity against a specific enemy. Also, the system is mostly based on talks and consensus, rather than constructive voting. In terms of military capability transparency, defense policy document of each member is on voluntary basis. Quality and quantity may vary depending on how much a member wants to be open. While some may see this casual character of ARF as a weakness, such non-supranational entity is necessary and inevitable for Asian security once again for the on-going distrust problem among countries.
Indeed, there are cases of Asian security progress made under the ARF. By the joining of North Korea in the ARF, Japan and South Korea, the two prominent Asian countries concerned of North Korea, are able to build diplomatic relation with the state. Though not quite solved, the issue over South China Seas has been brought on the table numerous times where countries are able to voice with frankness. Despite its consensus and volunteer based dialogues, countries are gradually progressing towards trust and confidence.
Yet, the ARF still faces limitations. For example the Forum still finds difficulty in conflict management. In the case of North Korean missile crisis, in which North Korea launched missiles and in which one of them flew over Japan, Japan did not consult the Forum but rather sought help from the US. Hardly anything was mentioned in the Forum. Moreover, North Korea claims that it was a satellite experiment and its actuality is yet to be found. Perhaps the most prominent criticism may come in the case of East Timor crisis. Contribution to resolve the problem did not arise in the dialogues. Wade Huntley and Peter Hayes, authors of East Timor and Asian Security, notes, the ARFs capacity to function as the fulcrum for regional security coordination and dialogue has been crippled, and it is unlikely that the ARF or nascent regional institutions will regain any major role in security deliberations or outcomes in the near future. With no other meaningful autonomous security institutions on the horizon, the path is again clear for big powers to contend for hegemony in the region (Huntley and Hayes). Perhaps, the current mechanism of the ARF is too loose and casual to actually solve conflicts.
Yet, in spite these criticisms, I argue that the ARF should be seen as a long-term investment for Asian security. The Forum has so far made a minimum contribution. It has created a place for countries to come together and discuss their problems, which has not been done before in the region. Members are launching new diplomatic relations with each other as mentioned above. It has made the ground base for a stable regional environment. The organization is still eight years old. It is too cruel to determine its success now. Now that it has achieved the minimal trust level among states to form a collective identity as Asians, the institution shall gradually revise its mechanism for much efficiency.
The mission for the ARF to become a prominent security entity is yet to be accomplished. Specific target of the institution needs to be identified at the same time managing the pace of the ARF so that no member would feel pressured or would feel that it is waste of time. It may also need a defined structure for much efficient dialogues. The ARF has much to progress and its success is certainly in the hands of member states. Especially for Japan, how she is going to play the role of leader, as a current economic superpower in the region, without intimidating the rest of the members will be one of the keys to her success in the regional security. Japan has made much of a course change in Asian security in the post-Cold War era. Her continuous commitment to the multilateral institution is crucial for her to gain trust from her neighbors and to become a normal country.
1.Dosch, Jrsh. PMC, ARF, and CSCAP: Foundations for security architecture in the Asia-Pacific? Canberra: Strategic and Defense Studies Center and The Australian National University, 1997.
2.Huntley, Wade, and Peter Hayes. East Timor and Asian Security. Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network Special Report 23 Feb. 2000. 24 Mar. 2001
3.Johnstone, Chris. Japan and Asia: What Happened? Global Reporting Network Publications. No.49 8 Feb. 1999. 24 Mar. 2001 http://www.nyu.edu/globalbeat/pubs/ib49.html
4.Midford, Paul. Japans leadership role in East Asian security multilateralism: the Nakayama proposal and the logic of reassurance. The Pacific Review 13.3 (2000): 367-397.
5.Ortuoste, C, Maria. Reviewing the ASEAN Regional Forum and its Role in Southeast Asian Security. Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. 27 Sept. 2000. 24 Mar. 2001. http://www.apcss.org/Paper_Reviewing_ASEAN_Forum.htm
6.Satoh, Yukio. Asian-Pacific Process for Stability and Security. Japans Post Gulf International Initiatives. Japan: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aug. 1991: 34-45.
7.Smith, J. Gary. Multilateralism and Regional Security in Asia: The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and APECs Geopolitical Value. The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs No.97-2 Feb. 1997. 24 Mar. 2001. http://data.fas.harvard.edu/cfia/cfiapubs/pdfs/97-02.pdf