April 27, 2015

CNAS Press Note: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Meeting with President Obama

By Alexander Sullivan, and Dr. Patrick M. Cronin

Washington, April 27 – In advance of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official meeting with President Barack Obama, Center for a New American Security Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Asia-Pacific Security Program Research Associate Alexander Sullivan have written a new Press Note, “Prime Minister Abe’s State Visit.” 

The full Press Note is available below:

Over the course of this week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make the first official state visit to the United States by a Japanese leader since 2006. Abe’s summit meeting with President Barack Obama will focus on a shared vision for an open, inclusive, rules-based order in Asia and around the globe. Three themes will be evident during the visit, which begins in Boston, moves to Washington, D.C., for the summit meeting and an address to a joint session of Congress, and concludes in San Francisco and Los Angeles: reconciliation during this year marking 70 years since the end of World War II; the transformation of the bilateral relationship; and joint contribution to global order. Today in New York, in advance of the summit meeting, the two foreign and defense ministers will issue revised defense guidelines, further transforming the alliance into a more integrated partnership.

No aspect of the U.S.-Japan and regional economic agenda is more important than concluding a framework agreement on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a high-standard trade deal that seeks to set the rules for healthy economic competition in 21st-century Asia.  The two leaders will announce that they have virtually completed all market access issues—save for rice and three other issues—and now is the time for the other 10 parties to finalize the deal.  The Senate and House markup of a fast-track Trade Promotion Authority deal helps underscore how close the TPP is to becoming a reality. Together, Obama and Abe will reaffirm the TPP’s importance in advancing economic openness and sustainable growth in the Asia-Pacific. Once a framework deal is concluded, all regional nations, including China, will be open to apply for membership.

At the same time, both countries recognize that the prosperity sought by all cannot come about in an environment of persistent instability or, worse, open conflict. Thus, the U.S.-Japan defense cooperation guidelines have been revised for the third time (the last revision was in 1997) to define alliance roles and missions, taking into account a changed security and technological environment. While Japan will retain its solely defensive military posture and the alliance will fully respect the Japanese Constitution, the new guidelines will make some critical additions.  One major new feature is the creation of a permanent, standing alliance coordination mechanism for seamless crisis response in a range of contingencies, which replaces a previous ad hoc version that was never activated due to fears it would signal escalation. This mechanism will enable rapid response to North Korean contingences; “gray zone” situations, such as maritime coercion surrounding the Senkaku Islands (called Diaoyu by China); or disasters such as the “3/11” or Fukushima tragedy. There will also be provisions for advanced information and communications technology to enable this closer political coordination.

The guidelines will specifically call for Japan and the United States to be able to defend not just each other but also third countries whose security situation could pose threats to either or both allies.  While the right of collective self defense will continue to be limited for Japan, the Abe administration plans to submit draft legislation to the Diet in mid-May for passage by August, thereby providing a durable legal framework for action.  Other sections of the defense guidelines will shine a light on alliance efforts to build regional security capacity and strengthen cooperation, contemplating a Japan that can export limited defense articles and operate its military in a wider area to include the South China Sea. Finally, it will allow for greater cooperation in space and cyberspace, which were largely uncontested domains in 1997. Full realization of the guidelines will rest on implementation in the coming years.  In addition to Diet passage of new legislation, the immediate next steps will include a plan for standing up the alliance coordination mechanism, as well as a related bilateral planning mechanism. 

Taken together, these economic and security innovations signal that the United States and Japan are solid partners in preserving and adapting an open, inclusive, rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific and around the globe.

Mr. Cronin and Mr. Sullivan are available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org or call 202-457-9409.

  • Alexander Sullivan

    Adjunct Fellow, Asia-Pacific Security Program

    Alexander Sullivan is an Adjunct Fellow in the Asia-Pacific Security Program, where he focuses on US-China relations, maritime security, regional military modernization and U....

  • Dr. Patrick M. Cronin

    Senior Advisor and Senior Director, Asia-Pacific Security Program

    Patrick M. Cronin is a Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Previously, he was the Senior ...