Saturday, November 06, 2004

An Ally: Japan

While I am always grateful for the tremendous, steadfast friendship of the UK and Australia, two nations Americans automatically think of when you say "allies," I would like to highlight another US ally that is often overlooked.

From the Japanese Self-Defense Force's English site:

 Rising from the ashes of World War II with the support and cooperation of many countries in the world, Japan has built today’s peace and prosperity as a technology country represented by its cars, information products and electronic consumer goods.
 On the basis of our experience, we believe that reconstruction of a peaceful Iraq is necessary not only for the peace and stability of the entire Middle East region and the international community but also for the peace and prosperity of Japan itself. In cooperation with other countries, therefore, we plan to provide active assistance to Iraq with Japan Self-Defense Forces troops and civilians as well as with financial aid so Iraq can rebuild itself as soon as possible and its people can live in a free and prosperous society without concerns about their present or their future.

Hidden in this statement are two important points. One, Japan has accepted the Coalition view that the invasion and rebuilding of Iraq are carrying out UN resolutions on Iraq, not in violation of the UN charter. Two, only in a free and democratic Middle East will the region find peace and prosperity, which is the cornerstone of Coalition policy there. A big part of this attitude is Japan's alliance to and friendship with the United States along with its own experience in liberal democracy and capitalism, which has led it to be more powerful and prosperous in many ways than it was as a militant imperialist power during WWII.

Japan supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and currently has about 500 support troops on the ground in the Governate of Al Muthanna, with hundreds more in Kuwait and on ships in the gulf assisting Coalition operations in Iraq. In September, Japan agreed to extend their stay by another year. They have also promised 5 billion dollars in re-construction money for Iraq.

500 men on the ground does not sound like very many, but this is Japan's first deployment to a combat zone since WWII and it constitutes a big step, and a big risk, for the Japanese government. Japan's constitution forbids it from having offensive military capabilities or using its armed forces in combat except in defense of the Japanese homeland. When the Japanese government made the decision to send troops to Iraq, there was actually a debate over whether or not they should be armed, even with rifles. Prime Minister Koizumi and his Liberal Democratic Party have gone out on a constitutional limb and incurred a lot of criticism at home for deploying troops to an area still considered a combat zone. The LDP's support for Coalition actions in Iraq was one of the main points opposition parties hammered the LDP on during last summer's elections.

Japan also supported the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, providing naval support to US ships engaged in combat operations and 500 million dollars in aid to rebuild Afghanistan. Japan supported the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 as well, giving 13 billion dollars for that effort.

The Japanese were good friends and solid allies of the US throughout the Cold War, when US bases on Japanese soil gave the US a strategic advantage, but also made Japan a sure target if a hot war with the USSR broke out. Their government's support has been steadfast and strong, although often unnoticed by Americans.

As the world's third largest economy, Japan is America's most powerful ally, as loyal in the last 59 years as any, and more loyal than some.


Some statistics:

Japan127 million$3.582 trillion
Britain60 million$1.666 trillion
Australia20 million$571.4 billion
Russia144 million$1.282 trillion
Germany82 million$2.271 trillion
France60 million$1.661 trillion

These stats are from the CIA World Factbook:
Japan Britain Australia Russia Germany France

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is part of why I am glad to live in Japan. I think the Chinese sub slicing through Japanese waters will, however, reinforce Koizumi support of the US and the UN's mission at the time of its establishment.