Today's date:
Spring 2001

Japan Should Develop Its Own Missile Defense Shield

Shintaro Ishihara, the controversial nationalist author and politician, is governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Region.

NO TO AMERICAN GLOBALISM | Some argue that globalization means we must all ultimately adopt a common set of standards and values. But these standards and values cannot be American. And America should be aware, as my friend Mohamad Mahathir, the prime minister of Malaysia, and I wrote some years ago, that the world will say "no" to such an imposition. Human rights and familial relations, just to start with those two issues, can be regarded quite differently even within the camp of democratic societies.

In order to assert its dominance, the US did what it could to destroy the emerging East Asian economies during the financial crisis that swept the region three years ago. Mahathir alone resisted the American recipe with exchange controls-and it turned out well. But the US could not tolerate this breach, knowing that it would be like an oil spill spreading around the region. So they pushed other Asian leaders to criticize Mahathir.

TOO MANY US T-BILLS | The US intelligence agencies have predicted that Japan will lose competitiveness vis-a-vis other Asian countries in the future. I don't agree with that. Japan has the resources to avoid such a fate, but it is constrained by its relationship with the US.

At present, Japan currently owns 150-200 trillion yen worth of US Treasury bonds that are denominated in dollars. If the dollar weakens, Japan then is also put in a weaker position. When he was prime minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto gave a speech suggesting that since Japan's financial situation was weakening, it might sell some of its US Treasury bonds. In an instant, America financial markets plummeted. The Finance Ministry made sure the prime minister shut his mouth from then on.
Because there is a 4 point gap in interest rates between the US and Japan, Japanese hold huge amounts of US government financial assets through their national savings institutions. By some estimates it has at times been as high as two-thirds of all Treasury bills.

The US imposes this interest-rate regime on Japan. So, no matter how much money Japanese people may have, no matter how much they may want to buy national instruments, it is just not feasible at Japan's low interest rates.
This is a very skillful strategy of the United States to soak up Japanese resources in order to prop up its monetary system because it does not have enough savings of its own. That is why we are pushed into this situation.

Perhaps the American strategy is good for them because they dominate a global system in which financial flows are 25 times the size of trade flows. But this system is not good for Japan. The hard-earned savings of the Japanese people should be employed in their own interest.

If Japan wants to truly be part of and help build a trilateral world, some have suggested we should turn more toward Europe and be less dependent on the US. Naturally, Washington will oppose Japan shifting its vast holdings to European investments. Perhaps this is not the only way to escape our predicament. Perhaps our US Treasury holdings can be used as collateral to better leverage our assets to revive the Japanese economy.

Moreover, one can't forget that the US uses its ECHELON satellites to gather information on Japanese as well as European businesses. This is not fair competition. Here as elsewhere, the US has a Gulliver-like monopoly over information. We should say no to that.

A MISSILE SHIELD FOR JAPAN | Japan should develop its own national missile defense system. We certainly have the technological capacity to do so.
A naval defense system-ship-to-ship and ship-to-air missiles-should be deployed throughout Japan's territorial waters to defend ourselves not only against North Korea, but China too. And building such a system would help boost the Japanese economy as military spending in the US has done for decades.

When I first heard of the development of North Korea's missiles, I of course understood their threat to Japan, particularly if they carried nuclear warheads, or, more likely, biological warheads. At the same time I realized that if a North Korean missile were to hit Japan, it might be a good thing over the long term because Japan is a country that does not awaken unless it is stimulated by the outside world. At last, the Japanese people would come to understand just how defenseless we are.
The Japanese people are living in a dream world where they think they are 100 percent safe because they will be protected by the US. Unless they are confronted with the cold reality of an external threat, in their illusion they will be happy to leave everything in the hands of the US. To me, the idea that the Americans will use all their forces deployed around Asia to come to Japan's defense given any contingency is groundless.

CHINA THREATENS KOREA | The North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reportedly said to South Korean President Kim Dae Jung that he would welcome the presence of American troops in South Korea even after normalization. Why would he say such a thing?

Because of the close links between Japanese-Koreans and their relatives, we have a unique way of gathering intelligence on the Korean peninsula. For Kim Jong Il the greatest possible enemy is not the US or South Korea. It is China.

In recent years, many important North Korean officials have fled to China, leading the regime to fear that its military secrets will be exposed. The vulnerabilty he may now face from China worries Kim immensely.

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