NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Still Shoulders Japan's Defense Burden

May 16, 1996

It was claimed that the April summit agreements between President Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto marked a historic change in our alliance. However, critics contend the changes are minor, and thus Japanese dependence on U.S. military force will continue.

  • Although the United States agreed to consolidate its military bases on Okinawa, overall U.S. troop levels in Japan will remain at about 47,000 and there was no hint of eventual reductions.
  • Japan agreed to sell nonlethal supplies to U.S. forces in peacetime, but there was no commitment to provide military material.
  • Japan agreed to review its constitutional ban on involvement in collective defense, but it didn't agree to provide even nonlethal items in wartime, much less active support.

When the U.S. approached Tokyo about assisting with minesweepers in the event of a Korean conflict, they rebuffed the request, and while the U.S. sent the Seventh Fleet through the Straits of Formosa in response to Chinese threats, the Japanese merely called for restraint.

Critics suggest that as long as the U.S.-Japan alliance remains in place, U.S. taxpayers will continue to give the Japanese a free ride. Today, Japan spends only $24 billion on defense, and they admit that without the U.S. commitment they might have to double annual defense expenditures to $48 billion.

Source: Ted Galen Carpenter, "Smoke and Mirrors: The Clinton-Hashimoto Summit," Foreign Policy Briefing No. 41, May 16, 1996, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001, (202) 842-0200.


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