Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Japan is back, says Kenneth Pyle

This is very interesting review of "Japan Rising: The Resurgence of Japanese Power and Purpose by Kenneth B. Pyle.
Pyle's rich history offers an important corrective for those who believe that the future of Asian security can be assured through a bipolar U.S.-Chinese concert of power. Although increasingly aligned with the United States because of growing uncertainty about its external environment, Japan is an independent variable, and the Japanese elite will come to its own conclusions about how to safeguard Japan's interests. A positive U.S.-Chinese relationship is in Japan's national interest, but excessive U.S. accommodation of Chinese power at Japan's expense will lead to increased hedging by Tokyo and a less predictable Asian security environment. To give Japan the confidence to combine its already close economic ties with China with a similarly stable strategic relationship, Washington should base its engagement with Beijing on a close alliance with Tokyo. Pyle makes this point in a more understated way, noting that "successful coordination of engagement policies with Japan will require great sensitivity to the dynamics of Sino-Japanese relations."

Pyle's analysis also provides an indirect but powerful counterpoint to the belief that Japan's development of nuclear weapons is inevitable in the wake of North Korea's nuclear test last October. It is true that some senior Japanese politicians now muse openly about developing nuclear weapons, but the same politicians and their predecessors also privately -- and sometimes not so privately -- ruminated about possessing a nuclear deterrent during the Cold War. Japan's leaders are looking at North Korea's nuclear test within the context of Japan's overall national power. Japan's power assets include a strong alliance with the United States, the extended U.S. nuclear deterrent, domestic political cohesion, and regional economic relationships -- all of which would be put at risk by a unilateral nuclear weapons program. The Japanese are not about to slide toward nuclear armament -- so long as Washington remains attentive to the credibility of its own nuclear umbrella and to its strategic commitment to Tokyo.

To the point.

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