March 9, 2010: Dr. James Auer, Ambassador Rust Deming, Professor Akihiro Iwashita, Professor Eiichi Katahara, Dr. Satu Limaye, Mr. Derek Mitchell, Professor Shinichi Ogawa, Professor Manabu Sato, and Mr. Tomohiro Yara

Regional Security and Okinawa in the U.S.-Japan Alliance

(Click to enlarge) Mr. Derek Mitchell discusses U.S.-Japan relations.


(Washington D.C.) March 9–The U.S.-Japan Alliance will continue as an important element of Asia Pacific stability due to a commitment on both sides to continue dialogue and find new solutions to pressing challenges. In a conference sponsored by the East-West Center in Washington, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, and Hokkaido University’s Global COE Program, distinguished scholars from the United States and Japan discussed two key concerns for the U.S.-Japan Alliance: regional security and U.S. military bases in Okinawa.
In the first panel, Ambassador Rust Deming of the Johns Hopkins University, Professor Eiichi Katahara of Japan’s National Institute for Defense Studies, and Professor Shinichi Ogawa from Japan’s Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University discussed the regional challenges to the Alliance, focusing on the changing role of Japan’s defense capabilities and the importance of the U.S. nuclear umbrella for regional security. Professor Katahara argued that for the Alliance to address the many challenges to regional security, Japan needs to play a more active role in the relationship, formalizing its security strategy and taking more responsibility for its own protection. While he explained that the U.S.-Japan Alliance should remain a central focus of regional security, he described the need to develop more enhanced regional dialogues on traditional and non-traditional security issues with countries such as China and through the East Asian Community concept.


In the meantime, however, Japan remains protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Professor Ogawa explained that many have argued for the United States to adopt a Nuclear No First Use Policy (NFU), but that such a declaration could conceivably reduce the credibility of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, leaving allies like Japan less confident about U.S. protection. Professor Ogawa pointed out, however, that U.S. conventional weaponry may be significant enough to constitute a protective umbrella and advocated careful study of NFU implications for the protection of U.S. allies and regional stability.


Ambassador Deming explained that though there are indeed many management problems for the United States and Japan to address, the Alliance continues to evolve and opportunities continue to grow. As long as the Alliance is committed to open dialogue on joint challenges, the security of Japan and the region will remain strong.


In the second panel, Dr. James Auer of the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, Professor Manabu Sato of Okinawa International University, and Mr. Tomohiro Yara of the Okinawa Timesexamined American military bases in Okinawa, discussing the history of the issue and the options for the future. The Okinawa issue is not a new problem, but one that has been discussed for over a decade. The American military base in Futenma City has been a hot spot for the controversy, as the base is located in the middle of a densely-populated area, leading to local safety and social concerns. Mr. Yara explained, however, that solving the base problem is difficult: the current proposal, based on a 2006 agreement between the two countries including a move of American troops to Guam and the enhancement of existing bases in Okinawa, is often unpopular with the local population or expensive and difficult to achieve.


The controversy over the best way to deal with the base issue, however, is not primarily between the United States and Japan. Professor Sato pointed out that the Okinawa base issue is essentially a problem of Japanese domestic politics and continued disagreements between local government in Okinawa and the national government in Tokyo. Most Okinawans, he explained, are not anti-American or exceptionally pacifist, but rather are concerned about the impact of American bases on their daily lives. Many Okinawans argue that they are asked by Tokyo to take on many inconveniences in order to house American bases, but receive few benefits in return.


Dr. Auer recognized the burden that hosting American military bases in Okinawa places on the populace, but argued that the 2006 agreement had been carefully created in consultation between the United States, the Japanese government, and the people of Okinawa to develop a solution that both maintained the security of the Asia Pacific region while also reducing the impact on the lives of Okinawans. He argued that the decision by Japan’s new leadership to reexamine this agreement reopened doubts, and suggested that the only way for this problem to be resolved would be either for the Japanese government to support the original agreement or to propose a new agreement that could receive the support of all parties involved.


Finally, Mr. Derek Mitchell, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian & Pacific Affairs, reviewed the current status of the U.S.-Japan Alliance and the prospects for the future. He pointed out that much of the positive change in Asia, including economic growth and the development of democracy, is due to the role of the Alliance in maintaining peace and stability in the region. He explained that the presence of American troops in Okinawa continues to serve as a deterrent and an important part of regional peace. The current questions over American bases in Okinawa have no easy answers, but he explained that the United States, Japan, and the people of Okinawa should continue to investigate a sustainable and mutually beneficial way to resolve the concerns.


James E. Aueris the director of the Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation at the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies. He served 20 years as a Naval Officer, commanding a frigate homeported in Japan and attending the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Staff College. Dr. Auer also served as the Special Assistant for Japan in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for ten years.


Rust M. Deming joined SAIS as an adjunct professor in Japan Studies in September 2005 after a 38 year career in the Foreign Service. His last overseas post was as Ambassador to Tunisia from 2000 to 2003. He served as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (June 1998 to August 2000), senior advisor to the assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from December 1997, and the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau’s Senior Advisor to the United Nations General Assembly in New York (October 1997 to December 1997). Amb. Deming served in Japan as Charge d’Affaires, ad interim (December 1996 to September 1997) and as deputy chief of mission (October 1993 to December 1996)
Akihiro Iwashita is a professor and director of the Slavic Research Center at Hokkaido University, Japan. Previously, he was a visiting fellow at the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at The Brookings Institution (2007-2008). He was awarded the 2007 JSPS Prize and the 2006 Osaragi Jiro Prize for Commentary. Professor Iwashita’s publications include Toward a New Dialogue on Eurasia: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Its Partners(Slavic Research Center, 2007).


Eiichi Kataharais professor and deputy director, Research Department, at the National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) of the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Prior to joining NIDS, he was professor of international relations at Kobe Gakuin University; a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Research Center; and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC).


Satu Limayewas named director of the East-West Center in Washington in February 2007. Previously, he worked with the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, VA as a member of the research staff. He served as director of the Honolulu-based APCSS' research and publications division from July 1998 to October 2006. Dr. Limaye was an Abe Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy's International Forum for Democratic Studies, and a Luce Scholar and head of programs on South Asia at the Japan Institute of International Affairs in Tokyo.


Derek J. Mitchellis principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. Until April 2009, Mr. Mitchell served as senior fellow and director for the Asia Division of the International Security Program (ISP) at CSIS. He concurrently served as director of the CSIS Southeast Asia Initiative. Mr. Mitchell was special assistant for Asian and Pacific affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001, when he served alternately as senior country director for China, Taiwan, Mongolia, and Hong Kong (2000–2001), director for regional security affairs (1998–2000), country director for Japan (1997–1998), and senior country director for the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore (1998–1999).


Shinichi Ogawa has been teaching at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University since April 2009 as a visiting professor. He served as the director of Research Department of the National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS), Japan’s Ministry of Defense, until March 2009. He started his career as a research assistant at the National Institute for Defense Studies in 1978. His publications include “Obama Seiken no Kaku-Gunbikanri Gunshuku Seisaku no Yukue” [A Prospect for the Obama Administration’s Nuclear Arms Control and Disarmament Policy], Kaigai Jijyo [ Journal of World Affairs ], vol. 57, no. 10 (October 2009).
Dr. Manabu Sato , currently professor at Okinawa International University, graduated from Waseda University and Pittsburg University. His well-known works are US Congress and its Activities toward Japan: 1980-1990 (2005, Japanese) and Futenma/Henoko and the Bible Discourse: American Foreign and Domestic Policies(2005, Japanese).


Mr. Tomohiro Yara , currently editorial writer at the Okinawa Times , was a visiting fellow at the East-West Center (Hawaii) from 2007 to 2008. His most recent book is The US-Japan Alliance on Sand, Okinawa Times (2009, Japanese).




(From left to right) Dr. Satu Limaye, Professor Eiichi Katahara, Professor Shinichi Ogawa, Ambassador Rust Deming, Professor Akihiro Iwashita, Professor Manabu Satu, Mr. Tomohiro Yara, and Dr. James Auer discuss the U.S.-Japan Alliance.