A Letter to American Friends

I hesitated for a while before writing this. I thought what I am going to say here maybe nothing new.

Nonetheless, I am writing this with a belief that recalling some facts which may have been forgotten or misunderstood would be necessary at this juncture.

Regarding Japan, several things are said:

― Japan is a free rider and not paying sufficient dues in defense.

Japan is actually bearing a major part of the U.S. forces stationing cost which would amount to nearly 2 billion dollars yearly. I presume the figure would be by far the No.1 in the world.

―The fact that Japan is not required to defend the U.S. whereas the U.S. is obliged to defend Japan is not fair.

In return for the U.S. obligation to defend Japan, under mutually agreed security arrangements, the U.S. is granted the use of facilities and areas in Japan for the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East. Moreover, the interpretation of the constitution was recently changed so that Japan can exercise the right of collective self-defense. Japan introduced new security legislation last year to this effect.

― The US should take an ambiguous attitude if Japanese Senkaku islands are attacked by other countries.

Strategic ambiguity means not to give assurances to two sides so as to keep both sides from taking adventurous steps. The U.S. is said to be taking such stance regarding Taiwan situation. But alliance is a totally different issue. It is based on the notion that clear commitments would deter opponents to take offensive actions. Any ambiguity would undermine the credibility of the alliance. Japan appreciates the fact that bipartisan commitment by the U.S. consecutive administrations has been expressed unequivocally regarding the security of these islands. Japan is determined to continue its defense-oriented security policy as long as the US remains a credible partner. ― The Japanese market is closed to American products such as automobiles and the US is accumulating deficit from trade with Japan.

These are arguments often heard in the 80s. Back then, 70 percent of the US trade deficit came from trade with Japan. Now it's below 10 percent. Japanese industries have changed their policies and started to manufacture products in the U.S. They are hiring more than 700,000 employees directly in the States. It is true that not too many big American cars are seen in Japan. But smaller European cars are sought after as they fit narrow streets of Japanese cities. It is not a trade barrier issue. It is a market demand issue.

Having pointed about above facts, let me underline that we in Japan have great respect for the American role in the world after WWII.

Your founding fathers' philosophy such as freedom, democracy and human rights are now accepted in many quarters of the world as common values.

We fervently adhere to these principles.

The U.S. has been bravely leading the fight against terrorism. You have our support and admiration.

Japan was helped immensely by Americans during the disaster 5 years ago. I know that because I was in DC and was a channel between two countries.

More than 70 percent of Japanese think the U.S. is a credible partner and the same portion of Americans feel affinity towards Japan. We have built up such incredible trust relations in the last 70 years.

We are convinced that the US will continue to play a leading role in the world and remain a good partner to us in the coming years.