15 December 2019
US President Donald Trump is reportedly musing about breaking off  the United States' security alliance with Japan. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump is reportedly musing about breaking off the United States' security alliance with Japan. Photo: Reuters

Withdrawal from US-Japan security pact: Trump must be bluffing

US President Donald Trump has mused about withdrawing from the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan during a recent chat with his White House advisers in private, according to Bloomberg News.

Trump reportedly thinks it is an overwhelmingly one-sided agreement, under which the US is responsible for guaranteeing Japan’s national security while Tokyo isn’t treaty-bound to rally to Washington’s defense when the US is under attack.

The treaty, known to the Japanese as the “Anpo”, was finalized in January 1960 in an attempt to counter Soviet aggression in the Far East.

Many political commentators have regarded the idea of the US breaking off security alliance with Japan as simply incomprehensible, while others suspect Trump may be only bluffing to boost his bargaining chips at the G20 summit in Osaka this weekend.

Many believe that by threatening to withdraw from the security pact, Trump may, to some extent, be able to enhance his leverage over his Japanese counterpart Shinzō Abe and force the latter to make further concessions over tariffs on agricultural produce and automobiles.

No matter what Trump’s motives might be in talking about withdrawing from the security pact with Japan, the truth is, if he really meant what he said, it would not only topple the geopolitical status quo in Northeast Asia, but could also disrupt the global order.

If Washington did walk away from its security commitment to Tokyo, then one could expect Abe to accelerate his constitutional amendment push to turn Japan into a “normal power” that can wage war against other countries if necessary and to elevate the Japan Self-Defense Forces to a regular military force.

Worse still, Japan may also develop its own nuclear weapons in order to counter its two neighboring nuclear powers China and Russia.

Once Japan starts building its own nuclear arsenal, North Korea, which is already a nuclear-armed country, will definitely hang on to its nuclear weapons program. So there goes the denuclearization process of the Korean peninsula.

US withdrawal from the security treaty with Japan would also send a message to the rest of the world that Washington is nothing more than a “paper tiger” that couldn’t care less about global security, thereby stiffening the resolve of other “rogue states” such as Iran in pressing ahead with their nuclear programs.

For that reason, we believe the chances for the US walking away from the “Anpo” are virtually zero, unless President Trump is completely out of his mind.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jun 26

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal