Japan-U.S. Conference on Peace in Northeast Asia 2019 (2/2)A stable foundation to bring about peace and order

January 17, 2019

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Discussions in Session 2 of the Public Forum revolved around the theme, "How to bring peace and order to Northeast Asia and what problems do we face?"

Responding to changing circumstances in Northeast Asia requires existing systems to be updated, not abandoned

Former Administrative Vice-Minister of Defense Matsunori Nishi opened the discussions for Session 2 by providing a geopolitical overview of the region in which Japan is located, describing Northeast Asia as the "world's biggest hotspot" in terms of military and economic issues. He pointed out that the Japanese archipelago is positioned such that it can prevent any potential advances into the Pacific on the part of continental Asian countries such as China, which is why "Japan would be inevitably caught up" in any conflict or skirmish that were to erupt in those waters.

Nishi expressed his opinion that Japan's decision after the Second World War to withdraw from its position as a major military power in Northeast Asia and come under the U.S. nuclear umbrella was, for the last 70 years, a correct one. However, it was only correct because U.S. military power was dominant at the time. With the emergence of China, Nishi argued that it will become increasingly necessary for Japan to work independently to draw out a new plan for the future of the region. He emphasized the necessity of Japan-U.S. cooperation here, adding, "If you take the lead in making the rules, you can also take the initiative when playing the game."

Nishi pointed out the difficulties in handling the changing circumstances in the region under the current system. Nevertheless, rebuilding the system from scratch would be too costly, so he believes that it would be better to update the system in situ, without abandoning it.

Three principles for maintaining regional order

Former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel was the first American to speak. He agreed that Northeast Asia is facing many issues and has some major difficulties to overcome. Russel argued that it is important for both Japan and the U.S. to take stock of the situation and see what sorts of "assets" they share. By assets, he explained, he means the shared values and system of democracy, the rule of law, and a free market; the fact that the two countries have worked together to resolve global issues in the past; and they have the shared experience of having built a strong alliance together. Russel believes that the regional order should be protected by harnessing shared assets such as these.

At the same time, Russel also noted that certain principles that must be kept in mind. First, a society that is stronger than China, and more appealing, can be built by increasing democratic stability and encouraging more open innovation. Next, the countries must uphold their principles and values no matter what the situation; they must support other countries that share the same values; and they should expand the network of countries that share those values. Finally, he stated that the current system must be continuously updated and optimized.

A plan for a peaceful Asian order exists. The question lies in how to realize it.

 Osamu Onoda, former commanding officer of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Air Training Command, was the next Japanese panelist to present a discussion point. Onoda began by pointing out that that one of the biggest changes faced by the world on the security front is the expanded scope of the field. For example, security now not only covers territory and other sovereignty issues - personal information and corporate data have also become directly linked to state security. In addition, Onoda explained how marine space, cyberspace and other domains that are part of the global commons have also become parts of the security apparatus.

Onoda believes that the ultimate goal for peace in Northeast Asia should be the perfection of a rules-based order. To reach that goal, Onoda argued that it would be effective to foster an environment of trust through continued cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and through repeated discussions on how to create rules to handle the new security areas mentioned above.

Finally, Onoda appealed for a return to the non-proliferation treaty framework for the denuclearization of North Korea agreed upon during the 2005 six-party talks. The six countries have already agreed to build a peace framework for Northeast Asia, and the countries concerned have already come up with ideas on how to realize the peaceful order and the necessity of implementing them. Onoda concluded, "The only question that remains is how to make it happen."

Expanding the number of countries that share common values is essential

Pacific Forum President Robert Girrier was the second American to present a discussion issue, and he agreed with Onoda in that he believes a peaceful order can be realized through cooperating where possible in the beginning, and building a trusting relationship from there. However, he did express reservations, saying that these activities cannot simply be for appearance's sake. Concrete and consistent action must be taken.

Girrier also agreed with Russel regarding the importance of expanding the network of countries that share common values, and argued that it is necessary for Japan and the U.S. to actively advocate for this from a position built on an ethical foundation. At that point, he explained, it will be important to present a concrete and comprehensive road plan to prosperity through those shared values.

After listening to the four speakers provide their statements, Genron President Yasushi Kudo presented the results of a questionnaire given out to experts shortly before the conference was held. One question asked respondents what is required to realize a peaceful order in Northeast Asia, and many of the expert responded that "dialogue" is necessary. Kudo also mentioned the results of a Joint Japan-China opinion poll conducted by The Genron NPO. The results showed that while citizens of each country feel that the other country is a military threat, a large number of those polled feel that peace and cooperative development are ideals to be aimed for in Northeast Asia. Kudo noted that the path to a peaceful order should be explored with due consideration given to both public opinion and to the trends among experts, and the panel was enjoined to discuss the points presented thus far.

Many of the opinions provided touched upon U.S. Leadership and on Asian policy.

How to face the decline in U.S. leadership

Daniel Sneider is a former Associate Director at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. He stated that U.S. leadership has contributed to peace and stability in the world up until now, and believes that the decline in that leadership is due not only to the country's reduced relative power with the emergence of China, but also due to the burden caused by the country's failed campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. He believes that is a phenomenon similar to that seen immediately after the U.S. loss in Vietnam, when U.S. involvement in Asia dropped temporarily.

Former Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki has high hopes that the U.S. will regain its leadership role. However, he stated that when allies such as Japan and South Korea encounter problems such as the recent radar lock-on dispute, it is important that they should not immediately seek out arbitration from the U.S., but instead attempt to resolve the issue on their own. He believes that the countries should not be putting an unnecessary burden on the U.S., so as to ensure the U.S. does not start looking at its involvement in Northeast Asia from a perspective of the costs incurred.

Russel stated that leadership is not something that is imposed from above, but rather about having the values and ideals that encourage other countries to follow voluntarily.

Greg Autry of the University of Southern California added that the source of U.S. leadership lies in its moral authority, and because that authority resonates with other countries, this has strengthened its alliances in Asia. However, he also stated that since U.S. authority and legitimacy have declined, it is essential to recover them.

Japan's stance towards U.S. unchanged - No one knows how to deal with Trump

Kudo asked the panel how Japan's security policies are being used to strengthen its alliance with the U.S. in consideration of the outline of Japan's new defense plan decided upon by Cabinet last December.

Nishi answered that financial constraints in both the U.S. and Japan "make competing with China in terms of military build-up difficult," which is why he believes that "focusing on upgrades to non-hardware elements will help build a more flexible U.S.-Japan alliance."

Former Vice-Minister of Defense for International Affairs Hideshi Tokuchi prefaced his response by stating that there are natural limits to what can be done due to the nature of the "policy documents for the SDF system," but, he added, the sections of the current defense outline that deal with the U.S. have changed little in the time since the defense outline of five years ago.

"There is no mention of how to work with the Trump administration, no mention of how to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, and nothing describing how it is connected to the national interest," he said. At the same time, the media is focused on de facto application of the MSDF's Izumo class escort ships as aircraft carriers, and Tokuchi described the current domestic discussion as "not appealing to the experts" who are interested in the direction of the U.S.-Japan alliance.

No clear approach to Asian diplomacy and security policies in respect to the Trump administration

After hearing from the Japanese panelists, Kudo turned to the Americans for their opinions, asking, "With the rise of China, what are the Trump administration's strategies on security in Asia?"

Jim Schoff of the Carnegie International Endowment for Peace responded that, "The trump administration has no single, clear approach." However, he explained that there are signs of the hub and spokes system, and a continuing of the Asia rebalancing strategy of Obama, and argued that involvement with Taiwan, in the South China Sea, and in other issues should continue even in the face of strong opposition from China. He also referred to the Trump administration's Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy. It is not only Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India that are involved in the region; the U.K., France, and other countries are also stakeholders, which is why Schoff thinks it is important to update the strategies with the involvement of other such countries.

Girrier also believes that it is important that many countries are considering and mentioning the FOIP strategy. Furthermore, Girrier believes it will serve as a valuable foundation for future discussions with countries with similar goals and interests on how to cooperate and move forward, and can provide a practical groundwork for future activities.

Russel stated that while there seems to be a gap between the plan as written and the policies that are being implemented, there is an attempt being made to restore balance to the region. He noted that the U.S.'s strengths include its ability to build and harness its networks, and that strength will be useful in implementing regional plans like the FOIP.

Sneider presented his concerns from a somewhat different perspective. He mentioned that one problem with President Trump's diplomatic style is his practice of holding summit meetings alone, with only the help of an interpreter's notes. This was true even during his talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which is why no one knows or can confirm what was actually discussed between the two leaders. Sneider expressed strong concerns about this.

Kudo turned back to the Japanese side to ask Tokuchi about his comment regarding the Japanese stance towards the U.S. being unchanged in the last five years.

"There is no question that the U.S.-Japan alliance remains steady," Kudo began. "But how is Japan taking President Trump's deal with North Korea...the statement he made about U.S. forces in South Korea? Is it being seen just as a means of keeping Kim Jong-un at the table? Or is it being seen as a major change of stance in terms of security?"

Tokuchi responded that while there is a consensus of opinion in Japan, one point to note when discussing the U.S. is that, "You should separate everything into three categories: President Trump's remarks, the policies the U.S. is actually implementing, and the actions the U.S. is actually taking. The intelligence organizations and military are responsible for maintaining the U.S. security, and for them, continuity is important. They can't afford to be misdirected every time President Trump makes a statement."

Spreading the news that liberal societies are necessary and should be the majority worldwide

Kudo changed the flow of the discussion slightly, stating that the differences that make China incompatible with the global community the panel was arguing in favor of are now becoming visible. Ensuring cooperative development and peace with China are regional issues, but as the rivalry between the U.S. and China deepens, Kudo asked whether it is even possible to achieve such goals.

Nishi responded that one characteristic of China is its ability to hammer out and implement policies at a rapid pace, but noted that only a small number of those policies are actually successful. In other words, they are not forming these policies after careful consideration and in line with a thoroughly laid-out plan. He explained, however, that China is quite skilled at using those successful policies as justification for how well they are doing their jobs. Nishi warned that China is making similar statements in the realms of diplomacy and security, but added that people "shouldn't be fooled" by the unreasonable logic they use to justify their actions.

Furthermore, Nishi suggested that the world is dividing into two types of societies: open and liberals ones like those in Japan and the U.S., and controlled societies completely monitored by the state, like that found in China. Nishi argued that in circumstances such as these, it is necessary to be persistent in communicating the message that liberal societies are a necessary part of protecting the dignity of the individual and of enjoying true wealth, and that they should be the majority in the global community.

Japan and the U.S. agree on the importance of dialogue with China

In the final part of the Session 2 discussion, Kudo asked the panelists the following question.

"As a part of the discussion on security and considering the issue of maintaining the peace and ensuring order in the future, what sorts of things should be discussed with China? Or do you feel that there is no point in engaging in discussion with China in the first place?

Schoff answered that agreements can be reached with China regarding issues where core interests are not involved, but that we shouldn't give up on the idea of reaching agreement even in the competitive fields as well. He provided the example of the talks between China and the ASEAN countries on the South China Sea Code of Conduct (COC), which have been ongoing for a long period time,

"Even if there is no immediate progress, you have to remain patient and continue the dialogue," he warned. Schoff also said that, in light of the importance of the marine resources of the area, Japan and the U.S. should join in on the ASEAN side in formulating the rules for resource management.

Onoda agreed with the importance of dialogue with China, but added that China is, "extremely worried about how they are perceived by the global community." He expanded on that, saying that once the COC is formulated for the South China Sea, Japan and the U.S. have to work with ASEAN to ensure Chinese compliance. If violations are uncovered, the news should be spread throughout the global community.

Tokuchi spoke of China's posture regarding the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, pointing out that although China has ratified the convention, they argue that they shouldn't have to follow rules that they weren't involved with. He warned that such arguments must not be easily accepted.

However, regarding the importance of dialogue, Tokuchi agrees. The so-called "nine-dash line" is a border China set unilaterally to assert its rights over the entire South China Sea. However, Japan and the U.S. refused to recognize the Chinese claim, and China has argued less vehemently in recent years, though it has not given up completely. Tokuchi believes that "disciplined dialogue" will be effective in changing China's stance.

From the perspective of resource management, Tokuchi also agreed with Schoff, mentioning that the South China Sea is one of the most important fisheries in the world, making up 10% of the global catch. Therefore, he said, proper resource management of the marine area is a concern of the world as a whole, and there needs to be increased international awareness of the issue.

Girrier argued that it should not only be regional rules that are applied, but also global rules. Wherever a problem arises, if it is in conflict with global rules, it should become a concern for every country in the world. For that reason, he appreciates the fact that the U.K., France, and Australia are all participating in freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

A stable footing is needed to bring peace and order to Northeast Asia

After a question-and-answer session with the audience, Fujisaki provided a summary. He noted that while it is difficult to be completely against China, it isn't appropriate to simply stand idly by and watch as events unfold. Fujisaki believes that it is good that awareness of this fact is spreading in Japan, the U.S. and other countries.

Fujisaki called for like-minded countries such as Japan and the U.S. to work together, to emphasize the concept of societies built upon values, alliances, and based in rules, and to spread those ideas worldwide. To achieve that, he said, these countries should work closely together and strengthen their communication and coordination.

Fujisaki believes that before people look to implementing a peaceful order in Northeast Asia, they must check to ensure they have a stable footing. There, he believes, lies an opportunity for Japan - even as it faces its own diplomatic challenges in the region - to bring the deadlock to an end.

Kudo expressed his appreciation to all who had attended the two-day conference, and brought the sometimes heated, four-hour long discussion to a close.

"During this conference we were able to engage in dense discussion of issues from the U.S.-China rivalry, to peace in Northeast Asia," Kudo said. "The reason our discussions were so successful is due to the fact that our panelists and audience members from both countries are sincerely dedicated to facing the region's issues head on."

United States
 Greg Autry Associate Professor, University of Southern California
 Robert Girrier President, Pacific Forum
 Mark Lippert former Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
 Daniel Russel Vice President, Asia Society Policy Institute
 James Schoff Senior Fellow, Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
 Daniel Sneider Lecturer, International Policy, Stanford University
 Riley Walters Policy Analyst for Asia Economy and Technology, The Heritage Foundation
 Ichiro Fujisaki former Ambassador to the United States
 Yasushi Kudo President, The Genron NPO
 Masanori Nishi former Administrative Vice Minister for Defense
 Yuji Miyamoto former Ambassador to China
 Osamu Onoda former Commander, Japan Air Self-Defense Force Education Group
 Hideshi Tokuchi Former Vice Ministry of Defense for International Affairs
 Yorizumi Watanabe Professor, Keio University

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