The strategic importance of Okinawa, the next steps needed to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance and the status of Japan-Korea relations are among a wide range of issues Sasakawa USA’s Dr. Jeffrey Hornung discusses in a three-part Q&A series in the The Sekai Nippo that ran from January 31 to February 2, 2016.
Speaking with Washington correspondent Toshiyuki Hayakawa as part of the newspaper’s look at important topics for the year ahead, Hornung provides analysis and breaks down key security issues that are likely to be in the news in 2016.
In part one of the series (pictured at right), published January 31, Hornung explains why the East China Sea may begin to get more attention in the coming months regarding Japan and China’s territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands. China has commissioned a large cutter ship that could be used to ram into smaller ships, he explained, and even if the ship is not used for that purpose, its mere presence is likely to increase tensions between the two countries.
“I don’t think China is willing to escalate to that level,” Hornung said during the interview, which was translated into Japanese for the article. “But it does become a new normal that is, in some way, destabilizing.”
The strategic importance of having U.S. troops located in Okinawa also plays a role in the case of a potential conflict in the East China Sea. Hornung believes if a conflict were to arise over the Senkakus, that the U.S. would honor its treaty agreement to defend Japan. But diplomacy would be used first, and Americans would “do everything they can to back China away without conflict,” he said.
In the second part of the series, published February 1, Hornung explains the impact of the new collective self-defense legislation on the U.S.-Japan alliance, how to strengthen that alliance, and what Japan can do to assert its maritime capabilities with respect to China.
Now that the collective self-defense legislation has been adopted, he said, the United States and Japan can take many measures to strengthen its alliance, including scenarios from peacetime to contingencies.
“Now any potential challenger to the U.S. knows it would have to face the power of Japan as well,” he said, and that increases the alliance’s deterrent capabilities.
In the third part of the series, published February 2, Hornung discusses the Korea-Japan relationship and its importance to the United States, as well the potential impact of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on its relationship with Japan.
If Seoul and Tokyo can improve their relations, there’s a chance for them to sit down and start to have strategic conversations on China or on North Korea. Then the U.S. could have its two allies working together toward a shared goal.
Specifically on the agreement recently reached between Japan and South Korea on “comfort women,” Hornung said the settlement is a positive development in fruitful negotiations between the two countries, but may not go far enough to resolve the issue. From the United States’ perspective, though, the step is in the right direction.
“The U.S. has two very capable allies in Japan and Korea,” Hornung explained, “but right now they can’t share information. They don’t cooperate on missile defense. They don’t have the same strategic vision when it comes to North Korea and China. So if they can put the comfort women issue behind them, if Seoul and Tokyo can improve their relations, there’s a chance for them to sit down and start to have strategic conversations on China or on North Korea. Then the U.S. could have its two allies working together toward a shared goal.”
The full articles can be found here: