James Auer, former US Navy intel officer and Director of the Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation at the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, weighed in on Japan's security issues in the print version of the Jan. 12 Yomiuri. Ranging far and wide, his interview happened to touch on a question that is being completely overlooked in the great debate in Japan: What the heck is Japan sticking with the US in Iraq now? After all, we're still providing logistics support.
And this is what Jim, in his inimitable bluntness, had to say:
… But Mr. Koizumi understood the threat of North Korea correctly, and sent the Self-Defense Land Forces to Iraq in order to ensure that the United States would assist Japan on the North Korean issue. He was very wise.
Many people here claimed at the time that the troops were just a cover for the expansionist ambitions of right-wing militants. Swallowing the China/South Korea trope, they failed to see Prime Minister Koizumi as a member of the post-war, Nevermore Generation. Now, Mr. Koizumi is gone, only to be replaced by his ideological opposite, the conservative Shinzo Abe. Yet China issues nary a peep, unless talk touches third-rail Taiwan. And President Roh has more urgent matters to tend to.
Those people must be horrified at the thought of Mr. Abe heeding Mr. Auer's following thoughts:
…China says it "can't control North Korea", but that's unbelievable. Prime Minister Abe should use the "Japan card". He should say to China, "You don't want Japan to have nuclear weapons, do you? Me too. But as long as North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons, the debate over possession of nuclear weapons in Japan will continue. So let's stop North Korea's nuclear program together." The US will gladly support this strategy.
He does talk to the prime minister.
I doubt that Mr. Abe will come right out and say so, but, rest assured, that is what is on our collective minds. If North Korea ever acquires a deliverable WMD system, all bets are off. That will make it easier for Taiwan too. And Beijing surely knows.