The author, Jamie Metzl, is Co-Chair of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared on Project Syndicate. Metzl is a former member of President Clinton’s National Security Council team and a current Senior Fellow of the Asia Society.
Reinvigorating the US-Japan Alliance
NEW YORK – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s current visit to the United States provides an ideal opportunity to reinvigorate the long-standing US-Japan bilateral alliance in the face of an increasingly aggressive China and persistent tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
For a half-century, the US-Japan alliance has been a cornerstone of Asian and global peace, security, and stability – and Japan has been an outstanding global citizen. Japan developed the economic-growth model that other Asian countries later emulated so successfully; actively contributed to global economic development; participated in the United Nations and other multilateral institutions (including paying a disproportionately high percentage of UN costs); and has helped to set a global standard for environmental protection and sustainable development.
As Abe arrives in Washington, DC, Japan and the US are both facing significant internal and external challenges, including rising tensions in Asia. In recent months, Chinese aircraft have repeatedly violated Japanese airspace over the East China Sea, and a Chinese naval vessel locked its weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese destroyer and helicopter.
Likewise, a Chinese military intelligence unit in Shanghai has reportedly hacked – and stolen from – a multitude of US businesses. And North Korea conducted its third nuclear test earlier this month, sending shock waves through the region.
This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
Over the past year the United States has launched an effort to “rebalance” its strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region. While there are many policy issues that divide Republicans and Democrats, America’s role in actively shaping a more peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific is one issue that enjoys strong support amongst both parties. After a decade of focusing our time, energy, and resources on counterterrorism and the Middle East region, we welcome a strategic rebalancing of our efforts to a region that will play a leading role in defining the 21st Century. However, the elements of this new focus should not just focus on the “balance of power” in the region, but also take into account the “balance of alliances” the U.S. enjoys. Approaching the region using an alliance-centric lens can help the U.S. position itself to play a major role in ensuring the region’s continued prosperity and peace.
Stuart Thorson is Donald P. and Margaret Curry Gregg Professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Hyunjin Seo is assistant professor in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.
It has now been over a week since the announcement of Kim Jong Il’s death. We learned the news in Seoul and observed shocked but calm South Koreans diligently following events.
The sense of calmness in Seoul reflects that there appears to be an orderly transition of power within North Korea. Of course, no one knows for sure what exactly is going on and what is going to happen in North Korea. That said, we hope, once an appropriate period of mourning is concluded, that steps toward positive engagement in such areas as humanitarian food assistance and nuclear talks that were underway at the time of Kim’s death will continue to move forward.
However, hope is not enough. We must recognize that even in places such as North Korea the future doesn’t simply happen. Rather, the future there as elsewhere is, to a significant degree, the result of a complex interplay of ideas and action. U.S. history provides a clear demonstration that among the most powerful of those ideas are notions of widely available education and open scientific inquiry. One need look only to the actions associated with U.S. support for these ideas in the countries of Western Europe following the Second World War. Or perhaps even more relevantly, consider programs such as the U.S. State Department funded Minnesota Project which developed sustained medical, engineering, and agricultural support to a South Korea suffering from the consequences of the Korean Conflict. Or the Fulbright Program which has served to help in the transformation of higher education throughout much of the world.
On Monday, September 19th, Partnership for a Secure America along with the Stanley Foundation and the Hudson Institute hosted Ambassador Linton Brooks in a series of events at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center, which focused on the nuclear challenges facing the United States. Ambassador Brooks, currently a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was the lead US negotiator on the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and also served as Director of Arms Control for the National Security Council and as an administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Retired Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral James Lyons argued in a Washington Times opinion piece on Monday that the US should “halt our participation in the START negotiations until we bring balance back into the equation.” The equation to which Lyons refers is that of nuclear deterrence: by maintaining the ability to destroy any potential nuclear-armed adversary, the logic runs, we can ensure that none will attack the United States. Unfortunately, a focus on the conventional logic of deterrence doesn’t fit in a world where the most urgent threats to US national security are posed by terrorists and other non-state actors who are difficult to identify, much less deter.
Lyons asserts that Russia has “embarked on an aggressive modernization program to field new nuclear weapons” and seeks a “breakout” capability, allegedly so that it could quickly build and deploy new weapons after withdrawing from any new arms control treaty. China, he adds, may be emboldened if the US commits to nuclear reductions, triggering a panic among our East Asian allies. Our looming nuclear weakness, the Admiral concludes, is exacerbated by the proliferation threats of North Korea and Iran.
Each of these assertions twists reality, but even if true, none would justify withdrawing from bilateral arms control, which is essential to protecting Americans from the clear and present danger posed by proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials to those most likely to use them against us. In recent Senate testimony, the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, himself a retired four-star Admiral, called the possibility of terrorists acquiring nuclear capability a “top concern,” and noted that traditional means of deterrence would likely be of “less utility” against such a threat. For that reason the President has committed to stopping proliferation at its source, by halting the spread of nuclear weapons to new states, and securing fissile materials. These efforts depend greatly on US-Russian cooperation, since our two countries possess over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons and material. A new agreement to replace the expired START treaty is an absolutely essential first step. (more…)
This is my last post for 2009 I thought I would write about Afghanistan but on second thought I will, no doubt, be doing that quite a lot during 2010. Thanks to the Obama Administration’s surge strategy Afghanistan will, from a blogging viewpoint, be the gift that keeps on giving.
So, as we contemplate whether 2010 will be better or worse let’s take a moment to consider 2009. In the spirit of Dave Barry’s classic annual year in review column let’s acknowledge, albeit with some poetic license commentary by moi, a few of the significant events that made, however briefly, the headlines.
Although it started on Dec. 28 2008 the month of January saw massive Israeli air strikes and a ground force invasion of the Gaza Strip. Heavy ﬁghting took place in Gaza City between the Israeli forces and Hamas. At least 1300 Palestinians were killed. On Jan. 17 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a unilateral ceaseﬁre in the Gaza Strip, declaring that Israel has achieved the goals it set when launching the military operation. On Jan. 21 Israel completes its troop withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Also that month President Barack Obama signed executive orders closing the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year; closing the CIA’s secret prisons; requiring a review of military trials for terror suspects; and requiring all interrogations to follow the non-coercive methods speciﬁed in the Army Field Manual.
Of course, nobody knew back then that the camp would end up in Illinois. One can only hope that the inmates are not too acclimated to the Caribbean climate to adjust to a midwest winter.
On Jan 27 Hama declared that it previously was just kidding and broke the ceaseﬁre by attacking an Israeli frontier patrol. Israel immediately responded that it lacks a sense of humor and renewed its air strikes on the Gaza Strip border with Egypt.
On Feb. 3 Iran launched its ﬁrst domestically built satellite into orbit. Iran stated that the satellite is meant for research and telecommunications purposes, but Western states express concern that the technology could be used in the development of ballistic missiles. The U.S. intelligence community, estimating that Iran will show the same swift progress with its missiles that it did with its nuclear program, predicted the next flight will be in 2040.
On Feb. 6, renewing their classic rivalry, a British and a French nuclear submarine collided in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Political leaders from both countries sighed in relief that it was merely submarines and not their respective football fans that collided. (more…)
To succeed, a state should specialize in products in which it has a comparative advantage, according to economist David Ricardo. Ricardo focused on tangible goods traded in the international market. However, states also possess another, by no means less marketable characteristic – reputation. A cause of many conflicts and wars, international standing is a commodity by itself because it can be turned into commercial advantage. The importance of reputation goes beyond attracting potential investors and trade partners. Studies show that concerns over reputation can ensure a state’s compliance with treaties and international norms, including the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
No state can thrive on international standing alone. However, reputation can reinforce or undermine the value of other marketable commodities and even influence the state’s export decisions. While comparative advantage in manufacturing arms offers a great source of export income, selling wrong arms into wrong hands can tarnish a state’s international reputation and offset its profits with resulting sanctions and embargos.
What can North Korea export, given its lack in valuable resources and technological expertise? North Korea’s highest-valued commodities include armaments as well as minerals, metallurgical products, and textiles. Its main customers are South Korea and China. (more…)
Two recent blog posts by John Pomfret over at the Washington Post got me thinking about how much more complicated China’s position on North Korea has become since the beginning of the Obama Administration.
As Pomfret points out in his May 27 post, for many years the U.S. has been waiting for China to solve the North Korea problem without realizing that our goals are not aligned.
First, there’s a silly assumption in Washington that our interests (no nukes in North Korea) are the same as China’s. But they’re not. China’s first interest in North Korea is making sure the Kim regime doesn’t collapse. China’s second interest? Making sure the Kim regime doesn’t collapse. From Beijing’s perspective, nukes in North Korea rank somewhere around 10th.
Pomfret goes on to give a great explanation about why regime change is the real threat to China. At the end of the day, as long as the DPRK could be coaxed to the negotiating table, China was satisfied that it was not falling apart.
Then, a few days later, in a June 6 post, we get the following from Pomfret:
There are surprising noises coming from China these days about North Korea. One influential Chinese academic thinks China’s policy — long supportive of the hermit kingdom — might be changing.
So, what happened in less than a week? Has China finally realized that no nukes is their number one priority? Not exactly. Turns out China, as evidenced by the Zhu Feng article that Pomfret is referring to, may be realizing that the regime in Pyongyang is not interested in negotiations and doesn’t care what Beijing thinks.
The “Dear Leader”
In the 2008 Presidential Campaign, and in President Obama’s subsequent speeches, there has been a lot of very sensible and justified emphasis on diplomacy over military force. If nothing else, this Administration seems to have a much lower threshold for initiating diplomatic dialogue and a much higher threshold for cutting it off. But there must be times when Democrats and Republicans, conservatives, neocons, and liberals, can agree that diplomacy just isn’t enough.
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Obama and Shultz at the White House on May 19 (AP photo)
At a meeting Tuesday with former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), and former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, President Obama summed up the group’s deliberations on the goal of achieving a world without nuclear weapons:
“This is a reminder of the long tradition of bipartisan foreign policy that has been the hallmark of America at moments of greatest need, and that’s the kind of spirit that we hope will be reflected in our administration.”
It’s great to hear this from the President who also made “bipartisanship and openness” an official plank in his campaign platform, and now identifies it as a key to effective US national security and foreign policy for his Administration.
You might think Obama’s commitment to bipartisan consultation and cooperation on national security would win nothing but plaudits from a group of former leaders obviously assembled not just for their substantive expertise, but for their bipartisan credibility. So then what are we to make of George Shultz’s reply, in the role of spokesman for the elder statesmen? Not once, but twice, the former Reagan administration official remarked that President Obama was wrong about nuclear disarmament being a “bipartisan issue,” because:
“It’s really nonpartisan. This is a subject that ought to somehow get up above trying to get a partisan advantage. And it’s of such importance that we need to take it on its own merits. And that’s the way we’ve proceeded. And that’s the way, at least it seems to us, you’ve proceeded.”
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.