Sasakawa USA Blog

This blog features a look at news, events, commentary and media related to Sasakawa USA and the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Sasakawa USA alumna Bina Venkataraman publishes book, The Optimist’s Telescope

Congratulations to Sasakawa USA Emerging Experts Delegation (SEED) alumna, Bina Venkataraman (Director of Global Policy Initiatives, Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard; Senior Lecturer at MIT in the program on science, technology, & society), on the publication of her new book, The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age.

Venkataraman gave a talk on September 24 at New America in Washington, D.C., as part of the “Future Tense” program to discuss the book. In her remarks, Venkataraman mentioned the example of Fukushima, and how TEPCO’s preparedness model unfortunately didn’t show or encapsulate the risk of disaster. In contrast, Onegawa Station stood resilient in face of natural disasters because it was built on a more realistic risk model. One of its engineers had reflected on history and used his imagination to innovate for future disasters.

Venkataraman presented this example among others as a lesson of the importance of taking history into account when imagining the future. Venkataraman rejects the idea that humans are reckless by nature and argues that we can adopt practices to help us confront the future as individuals and as a society to leave the best world for those who will come after us.

Venkataraman participated in the Sasakawa USA Emerging Experts Program (SEED) trip to Japan in March 2017. That year, Sasakawa USA partnered with the New America Foundation to take eight policy experts on energy and environment for a week-long study trip. Their visit included trips to Tokyo and Fukushima, where the delegates met with a range of Japanese government officials and experts from the Prime Minister’s Office, government ministries, the Diet, corporations, and research institutions.

— Juliane Doscher, Executive Assistant & Alumni Program Coordinator, Sasakawa USA

Ensuring Unity and Inclusivity for Foreign Workers in Japan: A Student’s Perspective

Ayano Nakamura is a first-year student at Bates College in Maine. She is a Japanese citizen who completed an internship at Sasakawa USA during the summer of 2019.

Ayano Nakamura

One of the challenges that Japan faces today is to ensure inclusivity and a sense of unity in Japanese society as the number of foreigners increases.

In my sophomore year of high school, I went on a yearlong exchange program in Houston, where I saw the 2016 presidential election. As I observed the reactions of my classmates, teachers, and commentators on television to the results of the election, I was shocked to see a huge divide within the United States.

Two years later, I accompanied my father when he was transferred to Washington, D.C. The country still appeared to be completely divided—a Gallup poll conducted in January-March 2019, for example, showed that 89% of all Republicans thought that President Trump was doing a good job while only 5% of the Democrats thought the same.

One of the major issues that demonstrate this big divide is immigration. When I first learned of the controversy over President Trump’s declaration to build a wall between the borders of the United States and Mexico, I did not think this issue applied to Japan. However, I recalled the so-called “Brexit”, i.e. Britain’s decision to leave the European Union in June 2016, partly resulted from conflicting views within Britain about the country’s immigration policies. As I searched for Japan’s immigration statistics, I found out that the foreign population in Japan is quite large and growing rapidly. There are already approximately 2,667,199 foreign residents in Japan. Although the number of foreign residents is 2.09% of the entire Japanese population, the social impact of increasing foreign residents in regions with a huge concentration of foreigners cannot be underestimated in a very homogenous country like Japan. Although this statistic is not comparable to the number of foreign residents in the United States, the increasing number of foreign residents could create a serious division between Japanese who are open to accepting foreigners and Japanese who are not.

Last year, the Japanese government decided to expand the number of foreign workers up to 345,000 workers in the coming five years. As Japan’s population continues to decline at a rapid pace, this policy is essential to maintain the country’s prosperity, but it is important to ensure that foreign workers can smoothly adjust and assimilate into Japanese society.

I believe the key to ensuring smooth integration is to secure good education for the children of those foreign workers and give them a promise of a better future. Without access to good education, foreign workers and their families will likely fall into more economic hardships and have difficulty succeeding, which will make their integration into Japanese society even more difficult.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Education, there is currently an estimated number of 44,000 foreign students in Japan who are in need of Japanese language education. High school enrollment rate for the foreign students is about 60%. The other 30% are enrolled in an online/part-time commuting school. The dropout rate for the foreign students is about seven times more than the national average. I believe that bringing both the high school enrollment rate up and dropout rate down to the national average can ease the discrepancy between the foreign and Japanese students. If high school graduation rates increase, that would open many doors for those foreign students.

To increase high school graduation rates, Japan should consider accepting all foreign students into Japanese public elementary and middle schools, even though the Japanese constitution does not consider foreign students as necessary recipients of compulsory education. If asking school to accept all foreign students is too much of a burden, then one idea is to purposefully establish a school in each district that has abundant resources and capacity to accept foreign students. Ota City in Gunma Prefecture is an example of a district that has pursued this path.

There are also currently only 12 prefectures that have at least one public high school offering  a special entrance exam to accept foreign students. I believe all prefectures should have such high schools. Moreover, for foreign students who may not be able to enter Japanese public high schools, Japan might consider establishing a high school similar to community colleges in the United States so that all foreign students can enroll without taking an exam, and then if they work hard enough, can transfer into a public high school.

Finally, both Japanese middle schools and high schools should implement a “mandatory volunteer credit” that students must earn as a graduation requirement so that they can tutor the foreign students in Japanese language. This not only gives Japanese students work experience, but also bring together the Japanese and the foreign students.

The division/conflict of opinions in the nation could become a burden for growth of the country.  Japan needs to make sure that the foreign workers feel safe working in Japan and accepted by their communities.

Japan has accepted different cultures, techniques, and habits from other countries in Asia and Europe to reflect and integrate into our own culture. Given Japan’s ability to accept different cultures, I believe that Japan can successfully integrate foreign workers into Japanese society without jeopardizing unity by taking necessary measures. Success in doing so will help Japan in the long run.


Chairman’s Message: The State of the U.S.-Japan Alliance

This month’s Chairman’s Message is an edited version of remarks given by Adm. Dennis Blair at the conclusion of the Sixth Annual Sasakawa USA Security Forum, held on April 24, 2019 in Washington, D.C.


Photo by Joy Asico.

The U.S.-Japan alliance has enjoyed a good year since the previous annual Sasakawa USA Security Forum in May 2018. There have been a few setbacks, but the alliance is getting its act together. More hard work lies ahead, however.

Let me review the important alliance developments over the past year.

Alliance Developments

First, policy alignment: 

As Ambassador Sugiyama said in his opening remarks, the U.S. National Defense Strategy (NDS) and the Japanese National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) are remarkably aligned, especially in their assessment of the Indo-Pacific security environment. This policy convergence is in remarkable contrast to several years ago when Japanese officials would complain privately of a perception gap. They thought that the United States did not share Japan’s understanding of the true nature of the Chinese challenge. As Asia Pacific Institute founder Dr. Funabashi said (earlier today), there is certainly no daylight now between Americans and Japanese on the greatest security challenge we both face.

This congruence of views is no accident. American officials consulted with their Japanese counterparts before completing work on the National Defense Strategy; Japanese officials consulted with American counterparts before completing work on the National Defense Program Guidelines. This tight coordination among American and Japanese security policy experts is an important foundation for combined action.

Second, defense budgets:

Both countries have increased their defense budgets at relatively high rates.

The American defense appropriation budget for 2019, the fiscal year that began last October 1, increased by 3%, and was actually passed before the start of the year for the first time in a decade. The Japanese defense budget for the fiscal year beginning on April 1 was a 2.1% increase over last year’s budget, a healthy increase by Japanese standards. (I should point out that the impressive increases in the American and Japanese defense budgets still trail Chinese military spending increases. China announced an increase in the PLA budget of 6.5% for 2019, the second straight year in which budget growth has exceeded GDP growth.)

Third, cyberspace policies:

DNI Coats for the first time called China out in September of last year: “From its continued hacking of our defense secrets to its focus on collecting vast repositories of personal and personality-identifying information to better enable espionage activities, China exploits our transparency and open society…”

In last week’s U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (2+2) meeting here in Washington, the ministers announced that a major cyberattack on Japan could, “in certain circumstances, constitute an armed attack for the purposes of Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.” This announcement brings the NATO cyberspace extended deterrence model to the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Fourth, complementary economic policies:

The United States took on the mercantilist and predatory Chinese economic practices directly, this year. Negotiations continue over Chinese intellectual property theft, Chinese discriminatory treatment of international business in its domestic market, and its subsidies of state-owned enterprises.

Japan, meanwhile, has adopted policies to offer an alternative to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Japan offers what it calls “high quality infrastructure projects,” and the United States has also started to take the Japanese approach with the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) act. I hope that America and Japan can work more with other like-minded partners to offer alternatives that provide space for countries in the Indo-Pacific region to chart their own economic development path.

Fifth, reduction of regional tensions:

It has been a year of friendly but wary summit meetings, with “frank and open” exchanges in private, bland communiques, and somewhat forced smiling photo opportunities in public.

The first trilateral summit meeting among China, Japan, and South Korea took place in Tokyo after a two-and one-half-year hiatus.

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un have held two summit meetings since our last annual Security Forum. The atmosphere has been frothy and friendly, but there have been no substantive agreements on either side’s main goal—North Korean denuclearization and economic development. President Trump dramatically foreshortened the second summit because of the lack of progress.

President Moon of South Korea has met with Chairman Kim Jong Un three times in the past year with few concrete results.

Prime Minister Abe met with President Moon of South Korea in September on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting and visited Beijing in November.

With all this high-level consulting and hand-shaking, you would expect regional flashpoints to have been relatively quiet, and so they were. North Korea continued to refrain from missile and nuclear tests, although it apparently continues to press forward on its nuclear weapons program. The United States and the ROK refrained from conducting major named military exercises, while maintaining combat readiness through smaller continuous training. I am concerned, however, that Japan-South Korea relations continue to deteriorate. Dr. Funabashi told us that it is hard to see relations improving in the near term.

In the South China Sea, things were quiet until the last few months when China initiated fishing boat swarm tactics around the Philippine-occupied island of Thitu. The United States maintained a steady level of military ship sailings and aircraft flights through the South China Sea, flying and sailing close to Chinese occupied islands, and Japanese, Australian, and European navies also operated in what they consider international waters in the South China Sea.

Future Concerns

So the news of the past twelve months has been more good than bad for the alliance. What are the concerns? Where do we need to concentrate in future?

First, the regional threat requires a higher sense of urgency:  

Communiques and budgets and hardware are important, but the heart of deterrence is combined warfighting capability. It is that demonstrated capacity and intent to protect our interests that ensures that enemies and competitors do not attempt to use military force against us.

Japan has established an operational headquarters for a Senkaku Islands incursion, and the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force has established a single operational command over its individual armies. However, the Japan Self-Defense Force has not yet established a standing joint operational headquarters that would handle a crisis or conflict in Taiwan or North Korea. The United States, for its part, has not established a corresponding operational headquarters in Japan for these contingencies.

The establishment of these two operational staffs in Japan, with their headquarters preferably co-located, would provide better counterpart staffs on the military side of the alliance. It would promote the development of operational concepts, clarify equipment requirements for these contingencies, and facilitate a combined exercise program for readiness and continual improvement.

The recent U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee fact sheet cited recent initiatives to “deepen operational cooperation”: “the steady implementation of mutual asset protection; bilateral presence and joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance operations; increased scope of logistical support under the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement; and ongoing exchange of liaison officers.”

While a Combined Forces Command on the Korean model is not appropriate, there needs to be much closer and more integrated operational organization and training for the range of very specific threats that both countries face.

Second, the alliance needs to move quickly in the new, important and difficult areas of space, cyberspace and electromagnetic warfare:

According to the 2+2 joint press statement “The Ministers highlighted space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum as priority areas to better prepare the Alliance for cross-domain operations.” This aspiration is welcome. However, the fact sheet that accompanied the statement listed only one specific current area of cooperation: space situational awareness.

Japan has no NSA-equivalent, so cyber cooperation will be difficult. Japan’s information security system is still not adequate to the challenge of protecting highly classified information.  The United States, for its part has not concentrated enough bilateral attention on electronic warfare, an area in which classification need not be as great a problem, in which Japan has high potential for military capabilities, and in which long-range Chinese sensors and weapons are very vulnerable.

The greatest difficulty to overcome will be in establishing the authority for Japan to operate in these new domains. Current Japanese law prohibits cyber operations outside Japanese networks; it was extremely difficult for the government to gain Diet approval for Japanese ships to defend nearby U.S. ships in case of enemy attack. Obtaining Diet approval for cooperation on dealing with cyber and space attacks will be even more complicated and difficult.

The 2+2 statement is correct that these new warfare areas will be important in the future, and the United States and Japan need to move rapidly to build combined capability. Assignment of responsibilities, exercises, acquisition priorities and the ability to exchange sensitive information are the keys.

Third, the United States and Japan lack a South China Sea strategy:

Japan and the United States have sailed ships and flown aircraft through international waters and have provided limited military and coast guard assistance to other claimant states. However, we have not yet developed a coherent strategy. We have made it clear what we do not want but have not made it clear what we will support. By taking no position on any of the territorial issues, we leave the region vulnerable to Chinese cabbage-slicing tactics.

The 2016 Permanent Court of Appeals decision on the South China Sea did not rule on sovereignty issues, but it provided the legal framework for a comprehensive settlement. With the help of international experts, the claimant states besides China, which would not participate in the process, need to agree on a map adjudicating the conflicting claims. As did the 2016 decision, the map should take account of China’s legitimate claims even if China does not participate in the negotiations. The United States, Japan, and other countries can then recognize that map. With a policy established, the United States and other forces would have a basis for determining how to support treaty obligations and interests with military deployments and military force, if necessary.

In conclusion, the U.S.-Japan alliance is making great progress, but our competitors, technology and world events continue to move fast. The alliance must accelerate the pace if we are to maintain the kind of world in which we want our children to live and prosper.

Sixth Annual Sasakawa USA Security Forum focused on new security challenges for the U.S.-Japan alliance

(Joy Asico/Asico Photo)

The Sixth Annual Sasakawa USA Security Forum focused on challenges facing the alliance in the Indo-Pacific region and how the United States and Japan can work together to meet these challenges. The day-long conference, held April 24, 2019 at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C., attracted attendees from the U.S. government, news media, think tanks, academia, foreign embassies, and business.

With an overall theme of “The U.S.-Japan Alliance: New Security Challenges,” the forum featured opening remarks by Shinsuke J. Sugiyama, Japan’s Ambassador to the United States, a keynote address by General Ryoichi Oriki, former Chairman of the Japanese Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a conversation between Admiral Dennis Blair (ret.), Chairman of Sasakawa USA, and Dr. Yoichi Funabashi, Chairman of the Asia Pacific Initiative. The event also featured five panel discussions on topics ranging from the United States’ and Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategies, to Japan’s changing security strategy, and the role of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in a changing society. With a diverse group of 20 expert panelists, and many audience questions, this year’s forum generated an active discussion on timely topics in the alliance.

Ambassador James Zumwalt (ret.), CEO of Sasakawa USA, opened the forum by introducing Ambassador Sugiyama. The Ambassador spoke about the strategic alignment of Japanese and American thinking about the Indo-Pacific region as reflected in the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee joint statement from Friday, April 19. He also stated that Japan must do more to defend itself in close cooperation with its ally, the United States.

After a video greeting from William Hagerty, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Admiral Blair introduced the conference keynote speaker General Oriki. He discussed how the U.S.-Japan Security alliance was adapting to the changing security environment in East Asia by deepening cooperation. In response to the rise in Chinese military pressure, Japan has begun to reinforce the Self-Defense Forces capabilities on Okinawa. General Oriki reiterated Ambassador Sugiyama’s point that Japan would take the lead for its own defense, but would fulfill this mission in close cooperation with the United States.

(Joy Asico /Asico Photo)

The two morning panels focused on Indo-Pacific regional developments. Dr. Michael Green, Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), moderated the first panel discussion, “The Indo-Pacific Strategy: Is it More than Countering China?” Dr. Evan Feigenbaum, Vice President for Studies at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Masanori Nishi, former Japanese Vice Minister of Defense; and Yuki Tatsumi, Director of the Japan Program at the Stimson Center, offered their views on changes to the Indo-Pacific region. While China was not the only factor, its rise presented challenges for the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Panelists discussed if the United States and Japan were “winning the influence game.” Beyond serving as a security provider, countries in the region were looking for American leadership to promote economic prosperity. Chinese behavior has left the door open for continued U.S. engagement, but nations in the region are concerned about the diminishing presence of the United States. In contrast to the United States, Japan has stepped up its regional outreach and countries in ASEAN and South Asia have warmly welcomed Japan’s engagement, including its capacity-building measures. Panelists agreed that Japan and the United States should continue to reach out to other like-minded countries such as Australia and India to promote their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The panel also shared their views on the role of the Korean Peninsula and South Korea’s role in the region.

The second morning panel, moderated by Matthew Goodman, Senior Vice President and Senior Advisor for Asian Economics at CSIS, discussed the competition for economic influence in the Indo-Pacific Region. Panelists included Ambassador David Shear (ret.); Dr. Mireya Solis, Philip Knight Chair in Japan Studies at the Brookings Institution; Tsuneo Watanabe, Sasakawa Peace Foundation Fellow; and Tobias Harris, Sasakawa USA Fellow for Economy, Trade and Business. They spoke about the rapidly shifting economic landscape in the Indo-Pacific Region. While Japan has stepped up its game by rescuing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after the U.S. withdrawal, the United States lacks a credible and nimble economic strategy in the region. The United States and Japan can best advance their interests by coordinating their economic statecraft. Both countries, panelists said, are interested in promoting global rules on issues like disciplines on government subsidies, forced technology transfers, favorable treatment of state-owned enterprises, and rules on the digital economy. Doing so would require the United States and Japan to resolve their bilateral trade issues first.

The panel also discussed the extent of influence China is gaining in the region through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the role of the United States and Japan in China’s BRI. One speaker pointed out that U.S. and Japanese financing for infrastructure would give recipient countries more bargaining power as they negotiated financing deals with China.

(Joy Asico /Asico Photo)

Admiral Blair and Dr. Funabashi then engaged in a conversation about the security environment in Asia. Despite the recent improvements in Japan-China relations, Dr. Funabashi thought it would be difficult to resolve territorial disputes in the East China Sea. The two experts agreed that, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pursued an energetic outreach program with Japan’s Asian neighbors, Japan-ROK relations are strained to an extent decidedly different from previous difficulties. The two thought leaders also discussed the impact of domestic politics on the U.S.-Japan alliance, including the future of U.S. leadership in the liberal world order and the need to mitigate the political impact of job losses resulting from globalization.

In the afternoon, Dr. Sayuri Romei, Sasakawa USA Fellow for Security and Foreign Affairs, moderated a panel called “Japan’s National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG): Pacing the Threat?” Panelists included Dr. Eric Heginbotham, Principal Research Scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Senior Vice President at CSIS; Lieutenant General Koichi Isobe, Resident Fellow at Harvard Asia Center and retired Japan Ground Self-Defense Force; and Nina Wagner, Defense Department Chief of Staff for the Assistant Secretary for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities. The speakers discussed the NDPG’s highlights and alignment with the United States’ National Defense Strategy, key priorities for implementation, and aspects open to question. Japan’s NDPG focused on high-end threats, defense of outer islands, and resilience.

Panelists also lauded the guidelines’ focus on improved cost-competitiveness and air and maritime capabilities. The guidelines also stress a seamless response and a whole-of-government approach including in the new domains of space and cyberspace. The Department of Defense panelist welcomed the NPDG, which she said positions Japan to be a regional leader and strong partner of the United States. Speakers also called for U.S.-Japan joint operational planning and discussed the need to accelerate progress toward “jointness.”

Copies of The New National Defense Program Guidelines: Aligning U.S. and Japanese Defense Strategies for the Third Post-Cold War Era, a new Sasakawa USA book on Japan’s NDPG and the implications for the alliance is available here.

(Joy Asico /Asico Photo)

In “Japanese Society and Security: The Role of the Self-Defense Forces,” James Schoff, Senior Fellow in the Asia Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,  moderated a discussion among Professor Takako Hikotani, Columbia University; Lieutenant General Masayuki Hironaka, retired Japan Air Self-Defense Force; and Professor Andrew Oros, Washington College. This panel focused on social issues relating to the JSDF and the Japanese public perceptions toward the JSDF. One issue discussed was Japan’s declining population and its impact on the SDF’s recruitment efforts. One speaker underscored the need for Japanese public discourse on the role and raison d’être of the SDF. The panel introduced polling data indicating growing acceptance of the JSDF among the Japanese public and its missions of defense of Japan and disaster response. The panel also discussed the changing civil-military relations in Japan from “containment” to “engagement,” emphasizing that civilian control over the military is firmly embedded in the SDF.

Ambassador Zumwalt chaired the final panel with David Helvey, Defense Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Keiichi Ichikawa, Minister for Political Affairs for the Embassy of Japan in the United States, where they discussed the recent U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting among the Japanese and U.S. Foreign and Defense Ministers.

The two government speakers commented that these ministerial discussions represented a strong alignment of the two countries’ perceptions about regional security threats. They agreed on the imperative to work closely with like-minded partners in the region, to expand alliance efforts to new domains such as space and cyberspace, and to sustain efforts to realign U.S. forces in Japan, particularly on Okinawa.

The forum concluded with comments from Admiral Blair. He reviewed key conclusions from the conference, noting General Oriki’s comment that Japan was determined to defend itself, while working closely with its U.S. ally. Blair also noted a strong convergence of views on the security situation in the region saying that this alignment reflected strong alliance coordination and communication. He praised both allies for increasing their military budgets, but said more was needed. Although the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance is moving forward, Blair stated that it needed to advance even faster in response to a deteriorating security environment. He recommended that the United States and Japan consider a combined operational command structure to strengthen deterrence.

For more information on the event, including video coverage of each panel and bios of each speaker, read “Sixth Annual Sasakawa USA Security Forum.”


Photography by Joy Asico /Asico Photo.


Chairman’s Message: After Hanoi, Back to Basics

For its first two years, North Korea has been the Trump administration’s highest profile diplomacy effort in Asia. The President and his advisors believed that in dealing with North Korea they had better ideas, greater skills and more favorable conditions than their predecessors. Some even dreamed that Donald Trump could be the second American president after Theodore Roosevelt to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for a peace treaty in Northeast Asia. Most of us with experience in U.S.-North Korea relations over the years were at best skeptical and at worst cynical, but we hoped that we might be wrong and that that this time would be different.

As it turns out, the third generation of the Kim dynasty is simply an updated version of the first two. It relies on completely disproportional expenditures on military force, conventional and military, both to deter its enemies and to justify the hardships its people endure; it meters out modest economic improvements to its long-suffering and thoroughly brainwashed population, while maintaining the most repressive police state on the planet; it attempts to trade unimportant and reversible limitations on its nuclear programs for real economic assistance, while keeping secret the most important parts of its nuclear complex.

North Korea is currently threatening to break off its talks with the United States and resume testing, and, for its part, the United States has stated it is in no hurry to schedule a third summit meeting and would react strongly to resumed North Korean nuclear or missile testing. So where should the United States go from here?

It is time to get back to basics, both in our policy towards North Korea and in our overall Asian policies.

First, policy towards North Korea. The United States should sustain its objective of a fully denuclearized North Korea. This approach is neither unrealistic nor an admission of failure.  There have been many U.S. national security objectives that take time and are difficult to achieve. Lesser objectives such as suspension of testing and a limited nuclear arsenal meet many North Korean security objectives but add to the security of the United States and its allies in the region. With denuclearization as the objective, the United States and the rest of the world have the justification for continued tight sanctions on North Korea. That country, and any country that has aggressive and dangerous regional ambitions, cannot be allowed the economic resources to build up its military forces, conventional and nuclear. The United States must stop treating Kim Jong Un as a clever statesman but deal with him as the brutal dictator he is.

The United States should redouble its own efforts and those of our ally South Korea and other countries to spread information within North Korea about the social and economic penalties that the Kim regime is imposing on its people. A popular revolt against the Kim regime is neither likely nor likely to be effective. The objective of an information campaign is to convince the elites in North Korea—the Army, police and propaganda leadership—that they themselves, their families and their country would do better without Kim. In many other countries, in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America, disillusioned elites have isolated and removed brutal dictators.

Next, policy in Asia. It is time to return to basics. The favorable American position in the world’s richest and most heavily armed region of the world has depended on forward deployed military forces, strong alliances, trust in American intentions and steadiness, and admiration for the free and dynamic nature of our society. To maintain that position in the ongoing competition with China, the latest in a line of regional challengers to its position, the United States needs to emphasize all four pillars and act in accordance with them. Robust challenges to unfair economic and business practices by both competitors and allies are fine, and in many cases overdue. Every nation understands the responsibilities of government to deliver prosperity to its people, and to support its own economy within a system benefiting all. However, putting price tags on alliances and security policies undermines the American security position in East Asia. When the United States and its allies need to act together in serious crises, it is because of shared interests and commitments, not because of the size of host-nation support payments.

There remain many issues and disputes that could flash into crises in East Asia involving either North Korea or China. Now is the time for the United States to strengthen our alliances and defense partnerships and build the regional institutional capacity to deter some from happening and handling those that will occur.