U.S. Military Support for Japan: Time for a Setting Sun
Washington should follow a strategy of disengagement in Japan, which no longer faces a serious threat. Japan is the world’s second-ranked economic power. Whatever dangers to Japan remain or might arise in the future, from, say, an aggressive China, could be met by a modest Japanese military buildup. Of course, many of Japan’s neighbors have long viewed Washington’s presence more as an occupation force to contain Tokyo than as a force to contain Moscow. But the Japanese do not possess a double dose of original sin; their nation, along with the rest of the world, has changed dramatically over the last half century. The Japanese people have neither the desire to start another conflict nor the incentive to do so, having come to economically dominate East Asia peacefully.
Moreover, Tokyo is unlikely to accept a permanent foreign watchdog, and tensions will grow as the lack of other missions for the U.S. forces becomes increasingly obvious. Popular anger is already evident in Okinawa, where American military facilities occupy one-fifth of the island’s landmass. Washington should develop a six-year program for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Japan, starting with those in Okinawa. At the end of that period Washington and Tokyo should replace their mutual defense treaty with a more limited agreement providing for emergency base and port access, joint military exercises, and intelligence sharing.
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