Thursday, July 31, 2008

The news is reporting that the US will relist South Korean ownership of the disputed Takeshima Islands. This will certainly peeve the nearly non-existent, nationalists.* Others may be concerned that this could damage US-Japan relations. (The US said that this represents no change in policy but a reversal of its week-long listing of the islands as belonging to no country.)

It seems that some folks are always concerned that certain US actions will damage the relationship.

Let's imagine that this tempest-in-a-teapot---or something that was actually serious---did damage relations. Severely. Japan then refuses to cooperate with the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Japan reduces all military/security cooperation with the US. Would that irreparably harm either country?

Would it be bad for the US to no longer be seen by other countries in the region as moving toward a Japan-centered Northeast Asia policy? Would the US once again be viewed as a positive that acts as a stabilizing force between potential military rivals such as Japan and China instead of being on team Japan? Would the US actually have to rethink its 60 year-old policy that US bases (and the mostly one-sided Security Treaty) must be maintained in/with Japan until hell freezes over no matter how the world changes?

Would it be bad for Japan if it no longer supported policies just because Boy George---or whoever follows---insists that if it doesn't Uncle Sam will get mad? Would the right-wingers really be able to realize their fantasy of a re-armed Japan? Would Japan even be able to afford rearming with all of the other problems it is facing now? Would the nationalists (who don't really have much influence, or perhaps don't even exist) be as willing to use that force as some of them irresponsibly claim? If they were, would the Japanese public rise up and vote them out of office as it has throughout history?

Just a few poorly thought-out questions. Of course, I didn't even consider the possibility of damaged relations spilling over into trade. Anyway, I am sure that as the now long dead Senator Mike Mansfield said, (paraphrasing) "The US-Japan relationship is the most important in the world, bar none."

*We can in part judge the presence of nationalism (narrowly defined) in Japan by how much it spends on defense---around 1% of its budget. This is much less than other countries in the region. Japan is in a very unstable part of the world with potential war zones (Korea and Taiwan) nearby, and yet Japan still only spends such a minuscule amount on defense. This, among other things, shows a lack of nationalism. It just isn't an issue!

Oops!!! Wonder if the fact that the US is providing security for Japan influences that lack of defense spending and lack of concern by the public with defense/foreign policy issues? Naaaah...

Edited at 2300. I should have read MTC's Shisaku post on the relisting of the Takeshima Islands before I posted the above. Maybe so, but I really wanted to rant about nationalists who don't really exist to any extent in Japan, a country with little or no (narrowly defined) nationalism.

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