CNS Branch Office: Washington, D.C.
November 9, 2000
Benjamin L. Self, Henry L. Stimson Center
Ben Self (center) with John Parachini (left) and Michael Krepon
Drawing on his recent trip to Japan and China, where he met with government officials and scholars, Ben Self discussed the strategic issues that had been raised during the course of his visit. He noted that although the focus of the interviews had been on alliances between the US, Japan, and China, the specter of North Korea still hovered in the background and permeated the talks quite frequently.
While Japan's reception to the findings of the recent Armitage report was positive, on balance, it was also concerned that the issue of North Korea's No Dong missiles did not figure as prominently on the U.S. agenda as the Taepo Dong missiles. More generally, Japan seemed wary and hesitant about the pace of the growing rapprochement between the US and North Korea, particularly because it felt that this created inescapable pressure by the US on Japan to move in the same direction.
On the question of its strategic relationship with the US, Japan's emphasis lay on domestic matters such as US bases and forces stationed in Japan. It was, however, well aware that it needed to refocus on wider alliance issues. In regards to China, historical hostility still remained in Japan though interestingly, this negative attitude was now spreading into the business community, parallel to an increasingly positive attitude taken in relation to Taiwan. While the traditional response to what it would take to build good ties between Japan and China had been centered around economic factors, the emerging reply now is the political democratization of China, going beyond human rights-related matters.
It is interesting to note that while the issue of arms control and non-proliferation is an isolated preserve within Japanese policy, China exploits the matter to its potential, using it as a powerful bargaining chip in relation to Taiwan. Taiwan ranks as China's top security issue and the country is unshakeable and will make no concessions on that issue. Instead of a progressive, confidence-building approach, China will not venture any discussion on other matters until the uncertainty surrounding Taiwan is firmly resolved. China remains adverse to any conception of a national or theater missile defense system, deeming it provocative, unfriendly and destabilizing.
Regional security experts in both China and Japan acknowledge that the pervading negative attitude towards each other is problematic for the development of a conciliatory relationship but those who understand this difficulty only number a few against the large majority -particularly, in Japan - who still hold on to old perceptions.
Prepared by Elina Noor