AFTER 50 YEARS, U.S.-JAPAN PACT REMAINS PILLAR OF PACIFIC PEACE; PENTAGON
WILL NOT OVERREACT IF JAPAN CHANGES ARTICLE 9; CHINESE MISSILE SALES PROMPT
NEED FOR U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE
Paul Wolfowitz, the No. 2 man in the Pentagon, is U.S. deputy
secretary of defense and was assistant secretary of State for East Asia
during the Reagan administration. He spoke with Global Viewpoint editor
Nathan Gardels in Washington on Sept. 5. Sept. 8 is the 50th anniversary
of the signing of the U.S.-Japan peace treaty.
NATHAN GARDELS: How has the strategic security situation changed in
Asia in the 50 years since the U.S.-Japan peace treaty was signed?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Overall, the situation
is very positive. Thanks in part to the end of the Cold War, but also
to the economic success of the non-Communist countries in the region,
we have achieved a degree of stability there not seen in centuries.
Even North Korea, which remains a danger, is anachronistically weak. We
should not take the danger lightly, but there can be no doubt in anyone's
mind that they are not on the right side of history. That is something
that could not be taken for granted only 20 years ago.
We haven't arrived at this Pacific tranquillity by leaving things alone.
The U.S.-Japan security alliance has been crucial to achieving this result.
It is the most important relationship, bar none, that the U.S. has. That
was true 50 years ago, it is true today, and it will likely be true 50
years from now. It is the keystone in the arch of stability.
GARDELS: Though immeasurably more tranquil now than for centuries,
reportedly U.S. threat assessments call for more focus on Asia in the
future and less on Europe. Is that so?
WOLFOWITZ: Let me emphatically reject the idea that we are moving
our focus from Europe to Asia. Like it or not, the U.S. is a global power
with global responsibilities. We have to assess our commitments and capabilities
according to the conditions in particular regions and deploy resources
It is obvious that the environment in Europe, with the exception of the
Balkans, is even more benign than in Asia. Indeed, the fact we can still
meet all our commitments even though the U.S. defense budget is down to
a level of U.S. GDP not seen since before Pearl Harbor is a statement
of just how benign the global environment is today.
Having said that, the review we have undertaken since the outset of the
Bush administration confirms that the uncertainties in Asia are much larger
than in Europe.
Though there is every reason to believe we can manage the situation and
the truce will hold there, the regime in North Korea is committed to astonishing
levels of military armament. Again, I think we can manage the situation
in the Taiwan Strait peacefully, but that peace has been challenged more
than once in the last 10 years. Then there is the emergence of China as
an increasingly powerful nation.
That doesn't mean China is the new enemy. The goal is to bring a more
powerful China into a prospering Pacific community. Nothing is more important
to accomplishing that than close cooperation between the U.S. and Japan.
The U.S.-Japan link not only creates a security balance in the region
but also a framework in which others have positive incentives to cooperate.
For all of Japan's troubles, it is still the second largest economy in
the world behind the U.S. If the two of us speak together, everyone else
GARDELS: One of the ways to strengthen the force structure in Asia
without more U.S. troops is by Japan "reinterpreting" its peace
constitution to allow its "self-defense forces" to become a
normal military. This is what Prime Minister (Junichiro) Koizumi wants.
Does the U.S. support that? After all, Germany has deployed troops in
WOLFOWITZ: The Germans made that decision on their own. And it is
up to the Japanese to make their own decision on this issue.
We've been able to work with Japan over 50 years within the current interpretation
of the Japanese constitution. The reason we have been so successful is
not only because there is room for skillful interpretation of the constitution,
but because our common purpose is to create stability in the Pacific and
not allow any country to impose its will on other nations.
If the Japanese feel the need to change this, it is up to them.
GARDELS: But is this something that will not raise hackles in the
Pentagon, though it might in the rest of Asia?
WOLFOWITZ: One of the reasons the Japanese are so careful on this
is because they are concerned how other nations will react. And the Japanese
You mentioned the German example. They, too, have had to be careful about
the reaction of others. There is a tendency, because of the history of
Japan, for some nations to overreact. People in the Pentagon, you are
right, do not overreact to this idea, though we fully understand the need
to tread carefully.
Obviously, one of the attractions of the U.S.-Japan mutual security
treaty is that it allows Japan to meet its security needs with forces
and defense budgets that are not a threat to its neighbors.
I'm sure the Japanese government will tread very carefully and
deliberately on this issue. And I think that is a good idea.
GARDELS: The other aspect of security in the region is how a rising
China, which opposes the U.S. missile shield as undermining its small
nuclear deterrent, views the strategic aims of the U.S. Reportedly, the
Bush administration has told the Chinese it will "acquiesce"
in their nuclear modernization as a means of demonstrating the shield
is not aimed against them.
Is that true?
WOLFOWITZ: That is categorically untrue. We have concerns about a
whole range of missile issues with the Chinese -- from proliferation of
missile technology to countries hostile to the U.S. to their buildup of
short- and medium-range missiles that threaten their neighbors, potentially
Japan, to the possibility of an increase in their long-range offensive
They have been engaged in modernization of their missile forces as well
as active proliferation long before the U.S. developed any plans for a
What is striking, and not sufficiently noted, is that the Chinese are
as opposed to theater nuclear defense as they are to U.S. national missile
defense. I can only interpret that as a concern that -- let me put it
this way: Our missile defense plans are not a threat to anybody. They
have the potential of taking away the ability of some countries to threaten
I hope China is not in that category. But it is up to them to decide.
Some of their behavior at least raises the question.
GARDELS: China holds the opposite view. Recently, Chinese Foreign
Minister Tang Jiaxuan said: "People cannot but ask what on earth
is the real intention behind a U.S. missile defense system. Is it really
to defend against the threat from a few so-called 'problem states' or
for greater military advantages over other big countries?"
How will President Bush respond to that argument when he arrives in China
WOLFOWITZ: The real question is why countries like North Korea or
Iran, with significant help from China and their good friend Pakistan,
are investing in short-, medium- and even long-range missiles that threaten
our allies, our deployed forces and ultimately the territorial U.S.
If they weren't engaged in those programs, we would be looking very differently
at investing billions of dollars in missile defense. The U.S. can probably
arrive at a system that can ward off limited attacks by fairly rudimentary
countries. Both China and Russia understand perfectly well that this is
a capability that poses no threat to them -- even if there is diplomatic,
political and perhaps strategic leverage in complaining about it.
(c) 2001, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate
International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 9/5/01)