50th Anniversary of Security Treaty: U.S.-Japan Alliance for the 21st Century

Jan. 19, 2010
Ambassador Roos

Ambassador Roos

By John V. Roos
U.S. Ambassador to Japan
Special to the Asahi Shimbun

The English version of this article appeared in The International Herald Tribune/The Asahi Shimbun on Jan. 19 and is reproduced here with the newspaper's permission. The article appeared in the morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun in Japanese the same day.

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. That date, Jan. 19, 1960, marked the beginning of what President Dwight Eisenhower called "an indestructible partnership" based on "equality and mutual understanding."

Despite its name, the pact is not mutual in the conventional sense, like the North Atlantic Treaty, where each member agrees to regard an attack on another member as a strike against all the parties. The treaty is mutual, however, in another equally important sense. The United States agrees to assist in the defense of Japan, while Japan grants the United States the use of bases in Japan, which serve the dual purpose of contributing to the security of Japan and maintaining peace and security in the region.

There can be no doubt that the treaty has played a critical role in this part of the world. As President Barack Obama emphasized during his visit to Japan last November, in the half-century since the signing of the treaty, the "alliance has endured as a foundation for our security and prosperity. It has helped us become the world's two largest economies, with Japan emerging as America's second-largest trading partner outside of North America. It has evolved as Japan has played a larger role on the world stage, and made important contributions to stability around the world."

The treaty was originally designed to respond to the threats of the Cold War, and the world today is certainly a far different place from what it was in 1960. But the treaty is no less critical today than it was 50 years ago when it was first signed. Some of the challenges that we face are clear--North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programs and the lack of transparency in China's military build-up. In addition, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and piracy on vital sea lanes are examples of problems that we need to continue to confront. But there are also no doubt unforeseen threats in this region and beyond. By relying on the strength of the alliance and acting together, the United States and Japan are in a better position to respond to challenges in this region than either country would be alone.

The interests of both the United States and Japan continue to be well served by the alliance. Japan benefits from the assistance of U.S. forces in its defense and is able to spend far less on its own defense, as a percentage of GDP, than any other state in the region. U.S. and Japanese national interests are also served through the use of bases in Japan by U.S. forces to provide a credible deterrent force to maintain peace and stability in the vital Asia-Pacific area. A growing and prosperous Japan, underpinned by the stability the alliance works to ensure, is also in the U.S. national interest, given the vast economic linkages between our countries. The alliance has endured for a half-century precisely because each partner derives benefits from it.

As President Obama said in Tokyo, "alliances are not historical documents from a bygone era, but abiding commitments to each other that are fundamental to our shared security." The world is not static, and like all relationships, the U.S.-Japan relationship must evolve and cannot be taken for granted. In order to ensure the continuing vitality and strength of the alliance, we must continue to look for ways to enhance our alliance capabilities, including for example, expanding our collaboration in such areas as intelligence cooperation and missile defense. In addition, we must ensure that our security arrangements and our force posture continue to meet the evolving challenges we face. We must do so, however, while minimizing the impact imposed on base-hosting communities, particularly in Okinawa Prefecture. Our two governments drew up the Realignment Road Map with these twin goals in mind.

As U.S. ambassador to Japan, one of my key responsibilities is to strengthen our alliance with Japan and to help ensure that it responds to the evolving security environment of the 21st century. The abiding commitment of our two nations to this alliance will be crucial to making it even more indispensable over the next 50 years than it has been for the last 50 years.

Both partners, working as equals, must keep it robust, fresh and forward-looking, so that this alliance we share continues to function as an indestructible partnership that protects each of our citizens and serves the vital national interests of both of our countries.