TRUTH BEHIND AMERICA’S INTENT TO HAVE JAPAN GO NUCLEAR
NBC News said in its October 4 morning program that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called President Trump a “moron” and was considering resigning.
During an unscheduled appearance before the press at the State Department the following day, Tillerson emphatically denied that he had ever considered leaving and went on to offer effusive praise for his president. Trump on his part responded by expressing his “total confidence” in his secretary of state.
But the US media speculated in unison that the top US diplomat would either resign or be fired sooner or later over policy differences with the commander-in-chief.
On October 5, the Washington Post ran an article based on interviews with 19 unnamed members of the Trump administration who were quoted as agreeing unanimously that Tillerson would eventually be forced to resign.
Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted on October 4 that Tillerson needed to resign, noting: “Rex Tillerson had been dealt a bad hand by the Potus & has played it badly…For both reasons he cannot be an effective SecState & should resign.”
What Tillerson will do with himself will significantly affect America’s foreign policy, including its relations with Japan. Clearly, Trump and Tillerson have widely differing opinions over some serious diplomatic matters, such as the Iran nuclear deal, the battle for supremacy among the countries of the Persian Gulf region, and the Paris Accord.
Trump and Tillerson have directly opposite opinions on matters relating to North Korea, which could have serious implications for Japan’s peace and security. During a brief visit to Beijing, Tillerson told his Chinese counterpart on September 30 that the US “has direct channels of communication with North Korea…we have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang,” stressing the importance of pursuing a dialogue with the North.
The following day, Trump revealed on twitter that he had told Tillerson: “Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now?…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done.”
This means that the “moron” report referred to earlier must have closely followed this tweet from Trump.
US-North Korea Military Clash Possible
Meanwhile, Bob Corker, a Republican heavyweight who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave high praise to Tillerson, pointing out: “I think Secretary Tillerson, (Defense) Secretary (James) Mattis, and Chief of Staff (John) Kelly are those people who separate our country from chaos.” (The Wall Street Journal, October 5)
A sharp clash has developed between those who value the traditional Republican policies and President Trump, who absolutely refuses to be bound by precedents.
The chasm over diplomatic and military policies within the Trump administration is also conspicuous when it comes to the matter of Japan’s nuclear armament. On September 5, Professor Russell Walter Mead of Bard College contributed an article to the Wall Street Journal, noting that opinions appear divided between the two camps over this issue. Mead, affiliated with the Hudson Institute, had this to say:
The first camp is centered around President Trump, who regards Japan’s nuclear armament as beneficial to US national interests. Trump believes that South Korea and Taiwan will follow suit when Japan goes nuclear, contributing to a reduction in US military expenditures in the region and enabling the US to develop a stronger deterrence against China.
We should never forget the hard fact that American voters selected Trump as their president after he had maintained throughout the campaign that Japan and South Korea must consider going nuclear as a workable option against the North’s nuclear development.
Conservative opinion maker Pat Buchanan—the original America Firster who has significantly influenced Trump—urges Americans to consider as follows in his regular Townhall Internet column:
“…Japan has risen to boast an economy 100 times as large as North Korea’s. South Korea is among the most advanced nations in Asia, with a population twice that of the North and an economy 40 times as large. Consider, North Korea devotes 25% of GDP to defense, South Korea spends 2.6 percent, (and) Japan 1 percent.
“Yet these mighty Asian allies, who run annual trade surpluses at our expense, require us to defend them from a maniacal little country right next door. After this crisis, South Korea and Japan should begin to make the kind of defense efforts the US does, and create their own nuclear deterrents.” Buchanan points out that such preparedness on the part of Japan and South Korea would also help deter China’s hegemonic ambition in the region.
The second camp that Mead refers to comprises those who are opposed to the nuclear armament not only of Japan but also South Korea and Taiwan and calls for the US to maintain the status quo, preventing nuclear proliferation by continuing to guarantee extended deterrence.
Tillerson, Mattis, and Kelly belong to this camp. But they are members of a cabinet in which only Trump has the power to shuffle personnel. It is plain that Trump’s judgment will ultimately take priority when decisions need to be made.
Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that Washington will select a military option, not talks, to cope with North Korea and that Japan will be pressed to adopt measures to significantly reinforce its defense capabilities, including nuclear armament.
The North Korean situation changes daily. A military clash could ensue towards the end of the year, or early next year. When that happens, can Japan protect its people? Mead wrote: “Many analysts believe it would take Tokyo only months to go from deciding to nuclearize to having the weapons.” It may be so technically. But post-war Japanese have been extremely reluctant to change even one word in the “peace” constitution written by American occupiers immediately after the war and enacted in 1947. It is simply unthinkable that the Japanese would allow their nation to go nuclear.
Only Abe’s Liberal-Democratic Party Can Guide Japan
The ongoing debate in the US advocating Japan’s nuclear armament strikes me as an utter belittling of America’s vital Pacific ally, as the rhetoric being used obviously suggests that the American proponents are in total disregard of the fundamental Japanese aspiration for pacifism.
Many American strategists, including Mead, view Japan’s nuclearization as a useful China card. If North Korea becomes a nuclear nation, they contend, Japan will have to nuclearize itself for its own defense. A nuclear Japan will be a major threat to China. These strategists theorize that China must use its influence to have Pyongyang halt its nuclear program as a means of preventing a nuclear Japan.
In order to block Japan—a vital American ally with which it shares common values and a relationship of mutual trust—from going nuclear, the US is prepared to readily join hands with China, a ruthlessly ambitious hegemon with a totally different political system and values. In a nutshell, that is America’s fundamental posture towards Japan’s nuclearization advocated by the first camp.
Positioning Japan’s nuclear armament as something forbidden, America appears willing to cooperate with China, which in effect is its archrival in the medium- to long-term. Tokyo must resolutely put forward to Washington a friendly suggestion along the following lines:
Japan is America’s faithful ally and desires to remain as such. Over the past seven decades since the end of the last war, Japan has made sincere efforts to contribute to the peace and stability of the international community. It aspires to revise its constitution in order to consolidate its military capability and contribute further to that stability. A strong Japan benefits American national interests. With all of this in mind, candid discussions of all pertinent issues between Tokyo and Washington, including nuclear armament, should be undertaken as a deterrent against North Korea.
Haven’t Japan and the US already established a solid relationship of trust, under which the above matters can be discussed constructively and openly?
The lower house election slated for October 22 is an opportunity for voters to scrutinize how best Japan should cope with the critical issues facing it, especially the threat from North Korea. In light of the current dangerous situation, we can hardly turn to Yuriko Koike and her Party of Hope—in essence the former Democratic Party under a new name—for protection of our lives and the nation’s future. Nor can we count on the Japan Communist Party, or Yukio Edano, head of the newly formed Constitutional Democratic Party, who steadfastly opposes the peace legislation enacted in 2016. But we do have one recourse left—none other than the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party-Komeito coalition headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 744 in the October 19, 2017 issue of The Weekly Shincho)