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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Peter Ennis on Futenma and Alliance

This is an article on the Futenma issue, shared on the Japan Forum, an on-line discussion forum of the National Bureau of Asian Research(NBR), a US-based think tank on Asian policies. It is written by Peter Ennis, a US correspondent of Weekly Tokyo Keizai, a Japanese business journal. His insights based on the background interviews with the key players are noteworthy.

The original article is here. Below are some highlights (with my highlights in red) with a few comments.

"There is much more debate within the Obama camp about Futenma than meets the eye. And there is also serious talk about the need for a "Plan B" in the likelihood (90% in my view) that the Hatoyama government rejects the Henoko plan. "


This "Plan B" was mentioned by Armitage during the "Japan-US Security Seminar"sponsored by several organizations including the Embassy of Japan. The YouTube link is at the "Okinawa 2010" video project.

"Overall, the tone and direction of Obama policy on Futenma are set by Campbell, Gregson, and Bader. The key outside voices are from Mike Green, and former Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage. "

"...not everyone from Team Obama agrees with the insistence that Japan proceed with the Henoko agreement. The Futenma issue has caused a significant rift (not personal, nor acrimonious, but substantial) among Japan specialists who have worked together for over 15 years to upgrade the alliance. "

"Some of the dissenters were..Sheila Smith of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ambassador Rust Deming now as SAIS, long-time Japan specialist Bill Breer, Columbia University's Gerald Curtis, and Harvard's Ezra Vogel."

"Joe Nye himself publicly urged the Administration to shift on Futenma in a
widely-read op-ed in the New York Times
. It is hard to over-emphasize how important Nye had been to Campbell, Green, and Armitage. It was Nye, working within the CIA and Pentagon, who listened carefully to subordinates, and then allied with Armitage, urging an upgrading of the alliance. Nye personally brought Campbell to the Asia position at the Pentagon in 1994. That’s why it was so important to notice the decidedly different views – at least in public – expressed by the two."

Also mentioning "Patrick Cronin, an indispensable person in the Nye Initiative going
back to 1994, and someone highly-regarded for his independence,"

Referred to the refuelling mission in Indian Ocean which became "a lightning rod in Japan for the DPJ's effort to battle the LDP."

"Armitage, Campbell, and Green were demonstrating a surprising tin ear to the mood in Japan, a tin ear to the extent to which the Iraq war had seriously, dangerously undermined Japanese confidence in the US. To push Japan to continue an essentially meaningless mission, and to make continuance of the mission some kind of litmus test of Japan's commitment to the alliance, would only backfire."

Ennis argues that the "tin-ear approach" would not work any more.

"In my view, the key people pushing the hardline on Futenma terribly underestimate the breathtaking extent of change now underway in Japan. For the DPJ, anything considered sacred by the LDP has to be looked at. That's fair, it seems to me, as long as it is done in a responsible way.... that's a process the US should engage, not try to muzzle."

Back to Futenma, Ennis suggests consideration should be given to:

"ONE: Interservice rivalries. From the beginning, the US Air Force and the US Marines heatedly argued against merging Futenma's operations into the US Air base at Kadena. Skipping the (admittedly existing) complications, I have no doubt that if the President said "get it done," the Marines would be up at Kadena in no time -- and with no where near the reduction in operational capabilities they claim would be entailed."

Kurt Cambell favoured this Kadena plan in 90's but lost, because "A Washington that is now sending young Marines into battle in Afghanistan is not in the mood to tell the Marine Corps leadership to come up with an alternative to Henoko."

"TWO: The role of Congress. As it is, there are cost-overruns on the huge expansion of military capabilities on Guam. It would not be easy -- short of spending a lot of political capital -- to go back to Congress and say more Marines than expected will be going to Guam."

"THREE: Doubts about the DPJ. In a public forum in Washington recently, Armitage asked whether the current opposition to the Henoko plan might be a dangerous prelude to criticisms of all US bases on Okinawa. That concern can not be ignored, but the answer, it seems to me, mostly depends on attitudes of the US and Japanese governments: a willingness to give clear, strategic reasons for basing arrangements, and to honestly work to reduce the enormous burden on Okinawa."

Lack of clarity and strategic reasons for basing arrangements are apparent. Both US and Japanese governments avoided the fundamental argument over the effectiveness of Marines in Okinawa as deterrents. See Yanagisawa and Gabe. For Japanese readers, see Sato's arguments and also the recent Ryukyu Shimpo.

"FOUR: Doubts about Hatoyama and Ozawa, in particular. Unfortunately, Prime Minister
Hatoyama has not exactly been clear about his strategic vision, and has come no where close to erasing doubts that, deep down, he still favors "an alliance without bases," which he advocated back in 1996. It is essential that Hatoyama provide more clarity, if the DPJ expects flexibility from the US side."

Hatoyama, asked about "an alliance without bases" in mid-December 2009, unfortunately said "I used to think that way, but now that I am Prime Minister, I had to put a seal on that idea."
(for Japanese readers, see this link too)

Ennis says the Futenma debate comes down to:

"ONE: Why are the Marines necessary on Okinawa? TWO: Where does Japan, newly-liberated from the LDP, plan to take its own security policy, and, in that context, the US-Japan alliance?"

Why Marines in Okinawa? "Deterrence"?

"Unfortunately, it is decidedly unclear how the potential absence of 18,000
Marines from Okinawa is going to embolden China or North Korea
. The US deterrent in Northeast Asia is based, fundamentally (and virtually irreplaceably) on the US Air Base Kadena, and the US naval base Yokosuka. Behind them, as the build up occurs, is Guam, where three US attack submarines are based, F-22s are based, enormous amounts of weapons are based, and where there will soon be a lot of Marines who can move quickly."

By the way, we now know that number "18,000" is just in our head; the actual number is around 11,000, and probably less at any given time. See Iha.

"Do 18,000 Marines on Okinawa really defend Japan? Of course not. Ichiro Ozawa has said that, at this point, Japan should be able to defend herself against an invasion."

"Do 18,000 Marines really deter North Korea? There is some room for argument here. Some US officials will argue that there are very conceivable scenarios in which the Marines could play a key role. For example, in the event of a chaotic collapse of the North Korean regime, with potentially hundreds-of-thousands of people in need of relief, the Marines might be called on to seize North Korean ports to ease the delivery of humanitarian relief aid. That is a very legitimate concern, and there are others of a similar sort. But a chaotic collapse in the North would not be a split second occurrence. Marines from Guam, or even Hawaii could get there in a matter of days, before which a regime collapse in Pyongyang would have become obvious. This is not to minimize logistics, which is why the US and Japan should agree way ahead of time on pre-positioning of supplies and access to key bases (airfields, possibly even a Futenma that quietly remains open for contingencies...) "

"But deter North Korean aggression? There is no credible argument around today that South Korean ground forces would not hold their own in the event of a North Korean invasion. South Korea currently has deployed along the DMZ more active-duty infantry forces than exist in the entire US Army and Marines combined worldwide!!"

"A North Korean invasion of the ROK would be quickly beaten back (albeit in the midst of terrible devastation) by ROK ground forces, and US air and sea based artillery capabilities. BTW: The ROK has very capable Special Forces that could seize control of North Korean ports in a crisis. Whatever shortfalls may exist could be rectified by US-ROK training cooperation. "

"Similarly, the Marines are on Okinawa for legacy and bureaucratic reasons (including budget: Japan pays a lot of the cost for stationing such a heavy US Marine presence in East Asia...). That may sound terribly disrespectful, and it is not intended that way, at all. The Marines have to have a huge presence in the Western Pacific. The entire region needs to know that the US is there to provide the "oxygen" of security (in Joe Nye's words). They need to be in a place from which they can quickly respond to crises, such as earthquakes, terrorist troubles, etc., and also be able to train, and have good conditions for downtime. The question is: WHERE? Does it have to be Okinawa? ".

"But the notion that the Marines are an indispensable part of the US deterrent in East Asia is not credible. ....The DPJ knows that, and the more the US insists on making that argument, the less likely there will be an agreement any time soon. "

In summary, Ennis is saying that there are no credible reasons to believe that Marines are effective deterrents in Okinawa or anywhere in the Pacific, that they are costly, that they are there just for legacy and bureaucratic reasons, and the only marketable reasoning is that they are there for providing humanitarian aid in case of emergency, but even that doesn't explain why they need to be in Okinawa. His arguments are consistent with Sato, Gabe, and Yanagisawa.

At the end he comes up with three possible solutions for US and Japan to "get out of this" - 1)endorsing and defending Kadena and Yokosuka, 2) "Co-basing" option, and 3) re-branding Marines as a multi-tasking force for humanitarian and counter-terrorism unit, though hinting that Marines themselves wouldn't want to buy that.

Ennis is still pro-alliance (military alliance) and his suggestions are more for saving the bilateral relationship from this mess and strengthening that alliance than for re-examining it or for the ultimate goal of eliminating US bases from Japan, an idea that should have been pursued by Hatoyama even after he became Prime Minister.

1 comment:

  1. H. Yoshikawa6:18 pm

    Yoshikawa Hideki, leader of the movements to save dugongs in Okinawa, allowed me to share his comments about the Ennis interview.

    "
    ...while I found Mr. Ennis' article very interesting and
    informative (for it was based upon his interviews with people in the
    policy making circle), I was surprised, ... there
    was no mentioning in the article of political and social situations in Okinawa and no discussion of why the Henoko plan has not been
    implemented for the last 13 years.

    Instead, his article seems to indicate that the lack of political will and skills on the part of the Japanese governments is the only reason for the course that the Henoko plan has been taking.

    Mr. Ennis wrote: "all these years, the LDP had those same briefings, and barely lifted a hand to truly implement any Futenma replacement plan."

    These words are offensive (and scary) not only to many people in the anti base construction camp but also, rather ironically, to the previous LDP governments.

    The LDP governments' sending Bungo to Henoko, twisting the EIA process in every possible way, pouring lots and lots of money into Nago to buy votes, setting up a clone position (extra vice-mayor) in the city office
    to keep its hands on the mayor, all indicate that the LDP governments did more than "barely lifting a hand."

    Having read the articles and a few more written by the same authors, I had to wonder, again, to what extent information on the local situations is really conveyed to those in the policy making
    circles, in Washington and Tokyo.

    ...I guess we have to keep trying do our part to getting the attention of those people, I mean both bureaucrats and analysts.

    ReplyDelete