Order Code RL33436
Issues for Congress
February 20, 2008
Emma Chanlett-Avery (Coordinator)
Analyst in Asian Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Mark E. Manyin
Specialist in Asian Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
William H. Cooper
Specialist in International Trade and Finance
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress
The post-World War II U.S.-Japan alliance has long been an anchor of the U.S.
security role in East Asia. The alliance, with its access to bases in Japan, where
about 53,000 U.S. troops are stationed, facilitates the forward deployment of U.S.
military forces in the Asia-Pacific, thereby undergirding U.S. national security
strategy. For Japan, the alliance and the U.S. nuclear umbrella provide maneuvering
room in dealing with its neighbors, particularly China and North Korea.
The Bush Administration has made significant strides in its goals of broadening
U.S.-Japan strategic cooperation and encouraging Japan to assume a more active
international role. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Japan made
its first-ever military deployments in non-combat support of U.S. and allied forces
in Afghanistan. In 2004 Tokyo sent non-combat troops to Iraq, despite considerable
domestic opposition. In 2005 the United States and Japan announced a sweeping
new agreement to strengthen military cooperation. The plan calls for U.S. forces to
be realigned and Japan to take on a more active (non-combat) role in maintaining
regional and global security.
The ruling party’s historic defeat in Upper House elections in July 2007 may
slow some of this cooperation. As Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda attempts to restore
his party’s leadership, some of Koizumi and Abe’s platform may be placed on hold.
If political jockeying weakens Tokyo’s focus on U.S.-Japan relations as an aging
Japanese population demands more attention to domestic economic issues, the U.S.Japan relationship may struggle to maintain its momentum of the past several years.
Japan is one of the United States’ most important economic partners. Outside
of North America, it is the United States’ largest export market and second-largest
source of imports. Japanese firms are the United States’ second-largest source of
foreign direct investment, and Japanese investors are by far the largest foreign
holders of U.S. treasuries, helping to finance the U.S. deficit and reduce upward
pressure on U.S. interest rates. Bilateral trade friction has decreased in recent years,
partly because U.S. concern about the trade deficit with Japan has been replaced by
concern about a much larger deficit with China. The exception was U.S. criticism
over Japan’s decision in 2003 to ban imports of U.S. beef, which have since resumed.
Most Recent Developments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Domestic Political Circumstances . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Rape Charge Threatens Alliance Progress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Japan Resumes Refueling Mission in Afghanistan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Regional Relations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
The Role of Congress in U.S.-Japan Relations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Major Diplomatic and Security Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Global Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Counterterrorism Cooperation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Support for U.S. Policy Toward Iraq . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
North Korea and the Six-Party Talks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
United Nations Security Council Reform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Kyoto Protocol and Climate Change . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Regional and Historical Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
China . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
South Korea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Military Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Agreements to Deepen Cooperation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Loss of Momentum ? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
New International Security Partnerships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Article 9 Restrictions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
U.S. Bases on Okinawa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Burden-Sharing Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Cooperation on Missile Defense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Economic Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Overview of the Bilateral Economic Relationship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Bilateral Trade Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Japan’s Ban on U.S. Beef . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
U.S.-Japan FTA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
The Byrd Amendment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
WTO Dispute . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
The Doha Development Agenda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Japanese Political Developments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Recent Developments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Fukuda’s Falling Popularity but Momentary Stability . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Constitutional Revision . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Japan’s Demographic Challenge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Recent Legislation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
110th Congress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
109th Congress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
List of Figures
Figure 1. Map of Japan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Figure 2. Map of Military Facilities in Japan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
List of Tables
Table 1. U.S. Trade with Japan, Selected Years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress
Most Recent Developments
Domestic Political Circumstances. After a tumultuous 2007, Japanese
politics has stabilized considerably, but still faces significant uncertainty in the
months to come. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, a pragmatic veteran of the ruling
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), assumed office in September 2007 after his
predecessor, Shinzo Abe, resigned suddenly. Abe’s resignation was preceded by a
major electoral defeat in parliamentary elections by the Democratic Party of Japan
(DPJ), the largest opposition party. As a result, the DPJ claimed control of the Upper
House, marking the first time that the LDP has lost power in the less-powerful
chamber of Japan’s bicameral legislature. DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa has succeeded
in constructing procedural obstacles to block parts of the LDP’s agenda, but a series
of political missteps and a lack of unity in the DPJ has diminished his overall
influence. Although Fukuda’s public approval ratings remain low, many observers
think he will be able to postpone a general election for the powerful Lower House
until after Japan hosts the G-8 summit in July 2008.
Rape Charge Threatens Alliance Progress. A series of high-level
agreements to upgrade the U.S.-Japan alliance in 2005-2006 may be in jeopardy due
to the changing political circumstances as well recent allegations that a U.S. Marine
in Okinawa raped a young Japanese girl. On February 11, a 38-year-old Marine was
arrested by Okinawan police in connection with the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl.
Mindful that a similar incident in 1995, in which three U.S. servicemen were
convicted of raping a 12-year-old, had damaged the reputation of the U.S. military
on Okinawa, U.S. officials have rushed to quell the impact of the incident. U.S.
Ambassador Thomas Schieffer flew to Okinawa to apologize and offer cooperation
on the investigation. Prominent Okinawan politicians, as well as Fukuda, have
expressed their outrage, and some opposition lawmakers have renewed calls for a
change to the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) that currently does not require the
U.S. military to hand over criminal suspects until they have been charged. In this
case, however, the suspect was arrested and detained by Japanese police without a
Japan Resumes Refueling Mission in Afghanistan. During the political
maneuvering that followed the July Upper House elections, Japanese support of the
U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan emerged as a key issue
of contention. Ozawa, leader of the ascendant DPJ, publicly vowed to oppose the
extension of a provision that allows the Maritime Self Defense Forces (the official
name for Japan’s navy, known as the MSDF) to provide fueling services to military
operations in Afghanistan. Under procedural rules, Ozawa was able to delay the
renewal of the “Anti-terrorism Special Measures Law” beyond its expiration date of
November 1, 2007. The Lower House, still controlled by the LDP, eventually
overruled the rejection of the bill by the DPJ-led Upper House. Upon taking office,
Fukuda had promised to prioritize the reauthorization, and was able to push through
the override, the first time the procedure had been used since 1951. Following the
reauthorization, a cruiser and oil tanker reportedly left Japan for the Indian Ocean in
late January to resume MSDF participation in counterterrorism maritime interdiction
activities. Japanese participation is limited to activities related to provision of fuel
and water to coalition forces.
Regional Relations. Despite underlying distrust, Tokyo’s relationships with
Beijing and Seoul appear to be on a solid upward trajectory. In the past year, the
Sino-Japan relationship has seen several notable accomplishments, including highly
successful reciprocal visits by heads of state and a movement toward compromise to
resolve long-standing territorial disputes in the East China Sea. An anticipated
spring visit by Chinese president Hu Jintao could further cement the improved
relationship. This reconciliation, however, has recently been challenged by the
discovery of several packages of “gyoza” meat dumplings imported into Japan from
China that contained a toxic pesticide. In late January, scores of people reported
becoming ill, some seriously, after eating the poisoned food. Although Chinese and
Japanese officials have reportedly reacted quickly and pledged to cooperate, the
incident renews long-standing concerns among the Japanese public about the safety
and hygiene practices for Chinese products.
The election of Lee Myung-bak as president of South Korea has improved
prospects for Seoul-Tokyo relations. Since his election in December, Lee has
indicated his desire to engage in more cooperation with Japan, in contrast to his
predecessor Roh Moo-hyun, whose rhetoric against Japan reportedly precluded any
meaningful engagement. Lee has also said he would not emphasize history issues
with Japan. Fukuda reportedly plans to attend Lee’s inauguration in late February,
an indication that Tokyo is eager to upgrade relations. Analysts caution, however,
that fundamental disagreements on a range of issues, from how to deal with North
Korea’s nuclear weapons to still unresolved territorial disputes, may challenge a fullscale revitalization of bilateral ties.
Figure 1. Map of Japan
The Role of Congress in U.S.-Japan Relations
Congressional powers, actions, and oversight form a backdrop against which
both the Administration and the Japanese government must formulate their policies.
In the 109th Congress, members showed a renewed interest in U.S.-Japan relations.
After holding only two Japan-specific public hearings from 2001 through 2004,
Congress held four in 2005-2006. Members of Congress were particularly critical
of Japan’s two-year ban on imports of U.S. beef and of the Bush Administration’s
handling of the beef dispute. On security issues, members have expressed concern
that steps taken by the Japanese government are harming U.S. interests in East Asia
by worsening Sino-Japanese and South Korean-Japanese relations. Former Chairman
of the House International Relations Committee Henry Hyde suggested in an April
2006 letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert that Prime Minister Koizumi should not
address a joint session of Congress unless he pledged to stop visiting Yasukuni
Shrine, which enshrines the names of several Class A war criminals from World War
II, and convened a hearing on Japan’s “history problem” in September 2006.
The “comfort women” controversy in the 110th Congress reignited
congressional concern about revisionist views of history in Japan. In September
2007, the House passed H.Res. 121, calling on the government of Japan to “formally
acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and
unequivocal manner” for its treatment of women forced to serve as prostitutes for the
Japanese military during its colonization and occupation of Asia in the 1930s and
1940s. The resolution passed by voice vote and attracted 167 co-sponsors, reportedly
driven in part by a June 2007 Washington Post advertisement signed by several
Japanese legislators and academics rejecting the historical basis of the resolution. A
few days later, the House also passed H.Res. 508, which praised the U.S.-Japan
alliance and Japan’s contributions to the effort against international terrorism. The
bill was seen as an attempt to blunt the negative diplomatic impact of the former
resolution. The question of historical truth and memory has emerged as a prominent
theme in congressional relations with Japan. (See the “Legislation” section.)
Major Diplomatic and Security Issues1
Following the terrorist attacks of September
11, 2001, the Koizumi government initiated
a series of unprecedented measures to
protect American facilities in Japan and
provide non-lethal, “rear area” logistical
support to U.S. military operations against
Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The latter mainly took the form of at-sea
replenishment of fuel oil and water to U.S.,
British, French, and other allied warships
operating in the Indian Ocean. The
dispatch of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense
Forces (MSDF) was the first such
deployment since World War II. A small
flotilla of Japanese transport ships, oilers,
and destroyers provided about 30% of the
fuel used by U.S. and allied warships, and
Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF)
conducted hundreds of airlift support
Japan Country Data
Population: 127.4 million (July 2006 est.)
% of Population over 64: 21% (U.S. =
Area: 377,835 sq km (slightly smaller
Life Expectancy: 82 years (2007 est.)
Per Capita GDP: $33,800 (2007 est.)
purchasing power parity
Primary Export Partners: US 22.8%,
China 14.3%, South Korea 7.8%,
Taiwan 6.8% (2006)
Primary Import Partners: China 20.5%,
U.S. 12%, Saudi Arabia 6.4%, UAE
5.5%, Australia 4.8%, South Korea
Yen:Dollar Exchange Rate: 117.99
(2007), 116.18 (2006), 110.2
(2005), 108.2 (2004), 115.9 (2003),
Foreign Exchange Reserves: $881 billion
Source: CIA World Factbook, February 2008
This section was written by Emma Chanlett-Avery.
missions for U.S. forces. After a suspension due to political opposition, Fukuda
reinstated the Afghanistan mission in early 2008.
Support for U.S. Policy Toward Iraq. While strongly preferring a clear
United Nations role in resolving the U.S./British confrontation with Iraq, Japan
nonetheless gave almost unqualified support to the Bush Administration’s position.
During an open debate in the U.N. Security Council, Japan was one of only two out
of 27 participating countries (the other being Australia) to support the U.S.
contention that even if the U.N. inspections were strengthened and expanded, they
were unlikely to lead to the elimination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Since
2003, Japan has provided $1.5 billion in grant assistance to Iraq, has pledged to
provide $3.5 billion in yen loans, and has agreed to a phased cancellation of 80% of
the approximately $7.5 billion in debt Iraq owed Japan. In addition, in January 2004,
the Koizumi government deployed about 600 military personnel — mainly ground
troops — to carry out humanitarian aid and reconstruction activities in Iraq. The
ground troops were withdrawn from the southern area of Samawah in June-July
2006, but the air division of the Self Defense Forces (the official name of Japan’s
military) has expanded its mission of airlifting multinational troops and their supplies
from Kuwait into Iraq. The Lower House of the Diet approved a two-year extension
of the air force transport mission in May 2007.
North Korea and the Six-Party Talks. As the Bush Administration has
moved aggressively to reach a deal on denuclearization with North Korea in the SixParty Talks, distance has emerged between Washington and Tokyo. Former Prime
Minister Abe rose to prominence based on his hardline position on Pyongyang’s
responsibility to disclose the fate and/or whereabouts of several Japanese citizens
abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Japan pledged that it
would not provide economic aid to North Korea without resolution of the abductees’
issue. U.S. chief negotiator Christopher Hill and President Bush have given
rhetorical support for Japan’s position, but have also indicated that the negotiations
will not be held up because of a lack of progress in Japan-North Korea bilateral
issues. The abductee issue remains an emotional topic in Japan, and the opposition
party has not taken a substantially different position from the LDP. Although some
Japanese officials and media figures privately acknowledge that Japan may need to
compromise in order to remain relevant in the ongoing talks, the political potency
and widespread anger surrounding the abductees make it difficult for leaders to adopt
a softer position.
Japanese officials have expressed alarm that the United States will remove
North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. The removal, considered
likely by many analysts, is one of a series of phased actions agreed to in the Six-Party
Talks in exchange for Pyongyang giving up its nuclear weapons program. In the past,
U.S. leaders have linked North Korea’s inclusion on the list to the abduction issue,
although State Department officials reportedly claim that the issue is not a legal
obstacle for removal. In December 2007, the Committee on Abduction of Japanese
Citizens by North Korea of Japan’s Lower House adopted a resolution urging the
United States to refrain from “de-listing” North Korea. The resolution read, in part,
“We are concerned that if North Korea is removed from the list without repatriation
of the detained victims, the Japan-U.S. alliance will be adversely affected and the
Japanese people will be greatly disappointed.”
Until the shift toward negotiation in Washington, Japan’s policy toward North
Korea aligned closely with the U.S. position in the Six-Party Talks. Japan has
insisted on North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons, has taken steps to squeeze
North Korea economically, and participates in the U.S.-led Proliferation Security
Initiative (PSI). After North Korea test-fired several missiles in July 2006 and tested
a nuclear device in October 2006, Japan strongly supported punitive United Nations
Security Council resolutions that condemned the actions and called for trade
restrictions. In addition, Japan imposed unilateral sanctions more stringent than the
UNSC resolutions, including a ban on all North Korean ships in Japanese ports,
restrictions on imports and most North Korean nationals from entering Japan, and a
freeze on bank remittances to North Korea from the ethnic Korean community in
United Nations Security Council Reform. In 2004, Japan accelerated its
longstanding efforts to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security
Council by forming a coalition with Germany, India, and Brazil (the so-called “G-4”)
to achieve non-veto membership for all four countries. Though the Bush
Administration has backed Japan’s bid, it did not support the G-4 proposal and
opposed taking a vote on expanding the Security Council until a “broader consensus”
on reforming the entire organization can be reached. To become a member, Japan
must obtain support from two-thirds (128 countries) of all U.N. member countries.
Japan is the second-largest contributor to the U.N. regular budget, paying more than
20% of the total, more than twice the percentage paid by the third-largest contributor.
Efforts to gain membership appear to have stalled.
Kyoto Protocol and Climate Change. Tokyo has sought to highlight
Japan’s leadership on environmental issues. Ahead of the G-8 summit in May 2007,
Abe proposed an international pact to halve the amount of emissions worldwide by
2050. At the Davos World Economic Forum in January 2008, Fukuda announced
that he wants Japan to become a “catalyst and a locomotive” in creating a post-Kyoto
framework after 2012, and that he wants “future generations to remember the new
framework in association with my country.” Japan is the fourth-leading producer of
greenhouse gases after the United States, the Russian Federation, and China. Under
the Kyoto Protocol, which Tokyo ratified in 2002, Japan is obligated to reduce its
emissions to 6% below its 1990 levels by 2010. Japanese industry shares many of
the concerns of U.S. industry about the cost and feasibility of the plan. In 2005,
Japan joined with the United States, China, India, South Korea, and Australia in the
non-binding Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which
calls for cooperation on the development and diffusion of technology to combat
climate change, reduce pollution, and promote energy security.
environmentalists have criticized the arrangement for its absence of mandates —
particularly on greenhouse gas emissions — and for being a part of a suspected U.S.
strategy to prevent the Kyoto Protocol from being renewed after it expires in 2012.
Regional and Historical Issues
Despite underlying distrust, Tokyo’s relationships with Beijing and Seoul appear
to be on a solid upward trajectory. Part of this is due to Fukuda’s emphasis on
developing friendly relations with Japan’s neighbors; his pledge not to visit the
controversial Yasukuni Shrine was perhaps the most significant in terms of
improving the diplomatic atmosphere. The Shinto shrine honors Japanese soldiers
who died in war, including fourteen war criminals who were convicted by the
International Military Tribunal for the Far East following Japan’s defeat in World
War II. Under Koizumi, Japan’s relations with China and South Korea suffered,
largely because of the former leader’s annual visits to the site.
China. In concert with the leadership in Beijing, which has been keen to shore
up its foreign relations before the 2008 Summer Olympics, Abe and then Fukuda
have substantially warmed Sino-Japanese ties. Although analysts emphasize that
geopolitical rivalry between China and Japan is likely to endure, the short-term
outlook is positive. The past year has seen several notable accomplishments,
including highly successful reciprocal visits by heads of state and a movement toward
compromise to resolve long-standing territorial disputes in the East China Sea. An
anticipated spring visit by Chinese president Hu Jintao could further cement the
improved relationship. This reconciliation, however, has recently been challenged
by the discovery of several packages of “gyoza” meat dumplings imported into Japan
from China that contained a toxic pesticide. In late January, scores of people
reported becoming ill, some seriously, after eating the poisoned food. Although
Chinese and Japanese officials have reportedly reacted quickly and pledged to
cooperate, the incident renews long-standing concerns among the Japanese public
about the safety and hygiene practices for Chinese products.
Although bilateral ties have warmed, territorial disputes remain unresolved.
Beijing and Tokyo have clashed over the territorial rights of areas in the East China
Sea, which is potentially rich in oil and gas reserves. Japan considers the area
surrounding the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands to be part of its Exclusive Economic Zone
(EEZ). The Japanese Self Defense Force has detected periodic Chinese military
activities in the area, including a submarine incursion in 2004 close to Okinawa and
a fleet of warships near a disputed gas field. China began production at Pinghu field
in November 2006, despite Japan’s opposition. Through multiple rounds of talks,
officials had failed to reach agreement, but in early 2008, signs of compromise began
to emerge. Beijing appears to have moved toward recognizing Japan’s demarcation
line, which would open the door for joint development of the gas reserves.
South Korea. The election of Lee Myung-bak as president of South Korea has
improved prospects for Seoul-Tokyo relations. Since his election in December , Lee
has indicated his desire to engage in more cooperation with Japan, in contrast to his
predecessor Roh Moo-hyun, whose rhetoric against Japan reportedly precluded any
meaningful engagement. Lee has also said he would not emphasize history issues
with Japan. Fukuda reportedly plans to attend Lee’s inauguration in late February,
an indication that Tokyo is eager to upgrade relations. Analysts caution, however,
that fundamental disagreements on a range of issues, including how to deal with
North Korea’s nuclear weapons, may challenge a full-scale revitalization of bilateral
A territorial dispute also remains unresolved. The long-standing controversy
over ownership of two islets in the sea between Japan and South Korea reignited in
2005 after a local government celebrated “Takeshima Day,” referring to the Japanese
name for the islands (known as “Dokdo” in Korean). Tension flared again in 2006
when South Korea dispatched two armed vessels to respond to a Japanese team
surveying the islands. A diplomatic compromise defused the standoff, but the
fundamental question of ownership has not been resolved .
Japan and the United States are military allies under a security treaty concluded
in 1951 and revised in 1960. Under the treaty, Japan grants the United States military
base rights on its territory in return for a U.S. pledge to protect Japan’s security. In
recent years Japan has edged closer to a more independent self-defense posture in
both practice and in published security strategies. In December 2006, J apan’s
Defense Agency was formally upgraded to a ministry for the first time since World
War II, giving the ministry more clout in budget and policy-making decisions.
Agreements to Deepen Cooperation. A series of Security Consultative
Committee meetings (SCC, also known as the “2+2” meeting) of the Japanese and
U.S. foreign and defense ministers have outlined plans to expand the alliance beyond
its existing framework. As U.S. personnel and facilities in Japan are realigned as part
of the broader Pentagon strategy of deploying a more streamlined and mobile force,
Japan is slated to take a more active role in contributing to global stability, primarily
through increased coordination with the U.S. military. Key features of the
arrangement include a reduction in the number of U.S. Marines in Japan, the
relocation of a problematic air base in Okinawa, the deployment of an X-Band radar
system in Japan as part of a missile defense system, expanded bilateral cooperation
in training and intelligence sharing, and Japan’s acceptance of a nuclear-powered
aircraft carrier in the Yokosuka Naval Base.
A statement from the latest “2+2” session in April 2007 reiterated many features
of previous meetings, with an emphasis on intelligence sharing and ballistic missile
defense cooperation. Implementation of the plan to relocate 8,000 Marines to Guam
and to replace the controversial Futenma Marine Air Station in Okinawa remains
slow. Many of the agreement’s most controversial elements are likely to face
continued obstacles, particularly from local Japanese politicians in the areas
identified to host new facilities and troops. U.S. officials say Japan will pay an
estimated $26 billion overall for the realignment initiative. Some military officials
in Japan are concerned that the high cost of the realignment could result in decreased
Japanese capabilities because of budgetary restraints.
Loss of Momentum ? Political shifts in Japan since 2006 may have slowed
some of the of increased cooperation in the U.S.-Japan alliance. Although ties remain
strong fundamentally, the Bush Administration shift on North Korean nuclear
negotiations, the July 2007 House resolution criticizing the Japanese government for
past “comfort women” policies, and the apparent decision not to consider exporting
the F-22 to Japan may have undermined to some degree Japanese confidence in the
robustness of the alliance. Koizumi and Abe’s platform of enhancing Japan’s role
in global affairs had been encouraged by U.S. officials who saw Japan’s strategic
For more information on the U.S.-Japan alliance, see CRS Report RL33740, “The
Changing U.S.-Japan Alliance: Implications for U.S. Interests,” by Emma Chanlett-Avery.
interests aligning with their own. Implementation of the “2+2” agreements depends
on Tokyo providing the necessary resources and political capital. Because the
realignment and transformation initiatives involve elements that are unpopular in the
localities affected, successful implementation depends on leadership from the central
government. If the ruling party continues to struggle to reestablish itself, details of
the hard-fought agreements designed to sustain the alliance politically may falter.
Furthermore, the accusation that a U.S. Marine raped a 14-year old in Okinawa in
February 2008 may stiffen opposition to further cooperation. (See “Recent
New International Security Partnerships. In early 2007, Japan signed a
bilateral agreement with Australia that pledges cooperation on counterterrorism,
maritime security, peace-keeping operations, and disaster relief. The pact, though
short of a formal military alliance, may help to establish a framework of security
cooperation among Japan, Australia, the United States, and, potentially, India. Such
partnerships adhere to the stated goal of “values-based diplomacy,” in which Japan
plans to strengthen ties with other democracies with similar political and economic
freedoms. Continuing this trend, in September 2007 Japan joined a multinational
naval exercise with the United States, Australia, Singapore, and India in the area west
of the Malacca Straits. The exercise reinforced two interrelated trends in AsiaPacific defense dynamics: the U.S.-led campaign of strengthening security ties
among democratic allies and the strategic countering of Chinese military power. On
the sidelines of the 2007 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, Japan,
Australia, and the United States held their first trilateral meeting.
The initiative is thought to be somewhat downplayed under the new leadership
in Tokyo. In addition, the Japan-Australia relationship is currently experiencing
considerable tension because of Japan’s practice of hunting whales. Under new
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Canberra has aggressively opposed Japan’s annual hunt
and has accused Japan of intruding on its territorial waters.
Article 9 Restrictions. In general, Japan’s U.S.-drafted constitution remains
an obstacle to closer U.S.-Japan defense cooperation because of a prevailing
constitutional interpretation of Article 9 that forbids engaging in “collective selfdefense”; that is, combat cooperation with the United States against a third country.
Article 9 outlaws war as a “sovereign right” of Japan and prohibits “the right of
belligerency.” Whereas in the past Japanese public opinion strongly supported the
limitations placed on the Self-Defense Force (SDF), this opposition has softened
considerably in recent years. Abe had indicated his intention to amend some of these
restrictions by reinterpreting the right of collective self defense and, eventually,
amending the constitution itself. (See “Constitutional Revision.”) Fukuda is thought
to be less supportive of such a change. Since 1991, Japan has allowed the SDF to
participate in non-combat roles in a number of United Nations peacekeeping
missions and in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
U.S. Bases on Okinawa. The reduction of marines on Okinawa seeks to
quell the political controversy that has surrounded the presence of U.S. forces on the
island for years. The recent charge that a U.S. Marine raped a young Japanese girl
renewed public outcry against the bases that had existed since the 1995 rape of a
Japanese schoolgirl by American servicemen. Though constituting less than 1% of
Japan’s land mass, Okinawa currently hosts 65% of the total U.S. forces in Japan.
Okinawan politicians have called for a renegotiation of the Japan-U.S. Status of
Forces Agreement (SOFA) and a reduction in U.S. troop strength ; these calls were
repeated by local and DPJ officials after the most recent alleged rape. The U.S. and
Japanese governments oppose revising the SOFA, but have acknowledged the
political demand to alleviate the burden of military presence in Okinawa. As part of
the realignment of U.S. bases, U.S. officials agreed to move most aircraft and crews
constituting the marine air station at Futenma to expanded facilities at Camp Schwab,
located in Nago, a less-congested area of Okinawa.
Burden-Sharing Issues. The United States has pressed Japan to increase
its share of the costs of American troops and bases. According to Pentagon reports,
Japan provides over $4 billion annually in direct and indirect Host Nation Support
(HNS), which is about 75% of the total cost of maintaining troops in Japan. In recent
years, Japanese officials have reportedly suggested that HNS be reduced on grounds
that Japan is now making a greater direct contribution to the alliance. After lengthy
negotiations, in January 2008 the Japanese government signed a three-year host
nation support agreement, under which it will pay 25.3 billion yen (about $236
million) to cover utilities for U.S. bases, similar to previous years. In subsequent
years, Japan’s burden will be reduced by about 1.5%, according to the agreement.
Cooperation on Missile Defense. A U.S.-Japan program of cooperative
research and development of anti-ballistic missiles began in 1999. The decision to
acquire the ground-based U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system and
the ship-based U.S. Standard Missile-3 system was justified largely on the basis of
North Korea’s missile program. In December 2005, Japan’s Defense Agency agreed
that Japan will pay over $1 billion for the project over nine years. Following North
Korean missile tests in July 2006, officials announced that the deployment of the
PAC-3 system to Okinawa would accelerate. In December 2007, the missile defense
program got a boost when a Japanese destroyer successfully intercepted a missile in
a test exercise near Hawaii.
Figure 2. Map of Military Facilities in Japan
Trade and other economic ties with Japan remain highly important to U.S.
national interests and, therefore, to the U.S. Congress. 4 By the most conventional
method of measurement, the United States and Japan are the world’s two largest
economies,5 accounting for around 40% of world gross domestic product (GDP), and
their mutual relationship not only has an impact on each other but on the world as a
whole. Furthermore, their economies are intertwined by merchandise trade, trade in
services, and foreign investments.
Overview of the Bilateral Economic Relationship
Although Japan remains important economically to the United States, its
importance has slid as it has been edged out by other trade partners. Japan is the
United States’s third-largest merchandise export market (behind Canada and Mexico)
and the fourth-largest source for U.S. merchandise imports (behind Canada, Mexico,
and China) as of the end of 2006. At one time Japan was the largest source of foreign
direct investment in the United States, but by 2006 had fallen behind the United
Kingdom. It was the ninth-largest target for U.S. foreign direct investment abroad
as of the end of 2005. The United States remains Japan’s largest export market and
second-largest source of imports as of the end of 2006.
Japan’s domestic economic conditions have influenced the U.S.-Japan economic
agenda. Except for some brief periods, Japan had incurred stagnant or negative
economic growth in the 1990s and the first few years of this decade. However, Japan
has shown signs of achieving sustained economic recovery during the last three years.
Some long-standing trade disputes continue to irritate the relationship. The U.S.
bilateral trade deficit with Japan reached $81.3 billion in 2000. However, in 2001,
the U.S. trade deficit declined 15%, primarily because of the slowdown in the U.S.
economy, but increased moderately to $70.1 billion in 2002. The trade deficit
decreased slightly to $66.0 billion in 2003 but increased to $75.2 billion in 2004, and
to $82.7 billion in 2005, breaking the record set in 2000. In 2006 the U.S. trade
deficit with Japan hit another record at $88.4 billion. In 2007, U.S. exports rose
slightly and imports declined because of a depreciating dollar, the U.S. trade deficit
with Japan decreased to $82.8 billion. (See Table 1.)
This section was written by William Cooper.
For a more complete treatment of U.S.-Japan economic ties, see CRS Report RL32649,
U.S.-Japan Economic Relations: Significance, Prospects, and Policy Options, by William
China’s economy is now larger than Japan’s by another method of measurement:
purchasing power parity.
Table 1. U.S. Trade with Japan, Selected Years
Source: U.S. Commerce Department, Census Bureau. FT900. Exports are
total exports valued on a free alongside ship (f.a.s.) basis. Imports are general
imports valued on a customs basis.
Despite some outstanding issues, tensions in the U.S.-Japan bilateral economic
relationship have been much lower than was the case in the 1970s, 1980s, and early
1990s. A number of factors may be contributing to this trend: Japan’s economic
problems in the 1990s and in the first few years of this decade changed the general
U.S. perception of Japan as an economic “threat” to one of a country with problems;
the rise of China as an economic power has caused U.S. policymakers to shift
attention from Japan to China as a source of concern; the increased use by both Japan
and the United States of the WTO as a forum for resolving trade disputes has
de-politicized disputes and helped to reduce friction; and the emphasis in the bilateral
relationship has shifted from economic to security matters.
Bilateral Trade Issues
Japan’s Ban on U.S. Beef. 6 In December 2003, Japan imposed a ban on
imported U.S. beef in response to the discovery of the first U.S. case of bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”) in Washington state. In the
months before the diagnosis in the United States, nearly a dozen Japanese cows
infected with BSE had been discovered, creating a scandal over the Agricultural
Ministry’s handling of the issue (several more Japanese BSE cases have since
emerged). Japan had retained the ban despite ongoing negotiations and public
pressure from Bush Administration officials, a reported framework agreement (issued
jointly by both governments) in October 2004 to end it, and periodic assurances
afterward by Japanese officials to their U.S. counterparts that it would be lifted soon.
In December 2005 Japan lifted the ban after many months of bilateral
negotiations but reimposed it in January 2006 after Japanese government inspectors
found bone material among the first beef shipments to have arrived from the United
States after the ban was lifted. The bone material violated the procedures U.S. and
Japanese officials had agreed upon. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns
expressed regret that the prohibited material had entered the shipments.
For more information, see CRS Report RS21709, Mad Cow Disease and U.S. Beef Trade,
by Charles Hanrahan and Geoffrey Becker.
In July 2006, Japan announced it would resume imports of U.S. beef from cattle
20 months old or younger; the first shipments arrived in August 2006. While
praising the decision, some officials have called on Japan to broaden the procedures
to include beef from older cattle. Members of the 110th Congress may press Japan
to lift restrictions on imports of U.S. beef further. In February 2007, Japan
suspended beef shipments from a Tyson’s plant in Nebraska after Japanese inspectors
discovered beef from cattle older than 30 months. To date, the action has not
affected other shipments of U.S. beef from Japan. In May 2007, the World
Organization for Animal Health (OIE) announced that the United States was a
“controlled risk” regarding BSE, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture urged Japan
to allow U.S. boned and boneless beef from cattle older than 20 months to enter
Japan. The Japanese government has replied that it needs to verify the results of
audits of U.S. meat-packing facilities and obtain findings from the Japanese
government Food Safety Commission. On August 3, 2007, Japanese officials notified
their U.S. counterparts that Japan is considering allowing imports of U.S. beef from
cattle up to 30 months of age. The government’s recommendation would have to be
approved by the independent Japan Food Commission before it could go into effect.
The Japanese officials did not say how long this process would take. 7 At the
November 2007 summit meeting in Washington, President Bush raised the beef issue
with Fukuda, who said that “[W]e are addressing the beef issue on the basis of
scientific findings. We are still in the process of our bilateral meetings.” The change
could have a major impact on U.S. exports to beef to Japan, by increasing the share
of cattle eligible for export to Japan from 10% of the herd to 90%, according to one
analysis. A major concern of Japanese agricultural officials is the ability to trace the
origin of beef to ensure compliance with Japanese safety regulations. 8
On December 7, 2007, U.S. and Japanese subcabinet officials met on the issue.
At that time, the Japanese government reportedly offered to ease the restrictions and
allow U.S. beef from cattle 30 months and younger (versus cattle 20 months and
younger) to be imported. However, U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark
Keenum said that the offer was unacceptable and that the United States demanded
a total lifting of the restrictions. 9
U.S.-Japan FTA. With the conclusion of negotiations on a U.S.-South Korean
free trade agreement (KORUS FTA) on April 1, 2007, and the formation of FTAs
among other East Asian countries, interest seems to have increased in the possibility
of a U.S.-Japan FTA. Japanese business leaders are concerned about being adversely
affected by the trade preferences that South Korean exporters would gain under the
proposed KORUS FTA. In May 2007, a Japanese government advisory panel
recommended that Japan undertake the formation of an economic partnership
agreement (EPA), Japan’s version of an FTA, with the United States. During their
late April 2007 summit meeting, President Bush and Prime Minister Abe touched on
the issue. According to a White House fact sheet, they agreed to exchange
information about one another’s FTAs and EPAs with third countries. U.S.
International Trade Daily. August 6, 2007.
Feedstuffs. August 13, 2007.
International Trade Reporter. December 13, 2007.
Ambassador to Japan J. Thomas Schieffer stated in a May speech before the Asia
Society that the United States would welcome an FTA with Japan as long as
agricultural trade is a part of it. A number of observers have argued that Japan’s
restrictions on agricultural imports would be a major stumbling block to an FTA.
Insurance. Market access in Japan for U.S. and other foreign insurance
providers has been the subject of bilateral trade agreements and discussion for some
time. Current U.S. concerns center around making sure that Japan adheres to its
agreements with the United States, especially as Japan’s domestic insurance industry
and government regulations of the industry are restructured. Specifically, American
firms have complained that little public information is available on insurance
regulations, how those regulations are developed, and how to get approval for doing
business in Japan. They also assert that government regulations favor insurance
companies that are tied to business conglomerates — the keiretsu — making it
difficult for foreign companies to enter the market.
The United States and Japan concluded agreements in 1994 and 1996 on access
to the Japanese market for U.S. providers of life and non-life insurance and also on
maintaining competitive conditions for foreign providers in the specialty insurance
market — cancer insurance, hospitalization, nursing care, and personal accident
insurance. U.S. and Japanese officials continue to meet under those two agreements,
and U.S. providers have been able to expand their presence in Japan under them,
according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
However, the United States has raised concerns about Kampo, the
government-owned insurance company under the Japan Postal Service, which offers
insurance services that directly compete with U.S. and other privately owned
providers. The United States has also raised questions about the activities of
regulated and unregulated insurance cooperatives, kyosai, claiming that these entities
do not have to adhere to the same regulations that bind traditional private insurance
companies, creating an unfair competitive advantage. A Japanese government
privatization framework released in July 2006 generated statements from the
American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and from the American Council of
Insurers arguing that the privatization plan would allow Kampo to compete with
foreign insurance providers by offering new products before it has been completely
privatized. In February 2007, the Japan Post board announced that the privatization
of Japan Post will go ahead as planned on October 1, 2007.
The Byrd Amendment. Japan, together with other major trading partners,
challenged U.S. trade laws and actions in the World Trade Organization (WTO). For
example, Japan and others challenged the so-called Byrd Amendment (which allows
revenues from countervailing duty and antidumping orders to be distributed to those
who had been injured). The WTO ruled in Japan’s favor. In November 2004, the
WTO authorized Japan and the other complainant-countries to impose sanctions
against the United States. In September 2005, Japan imposed 15% tariffs on selected
imports of U.S. steel products as retaliation, joining the EU and Canada. It is the first
time that Japan had imposed punitive tariffs on U.S. products. In the meantime, a
repeal of the Byrd Amendment was included in the conference report for S. 1932, the
Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, that was signed by the President into law (P.L. 109171) on February 8, 2006. The measure phases out the program over a period ending
October 1, 2007. 10 Although Japan has praised the repeal of the Byrd Amendment,
it criticized the delayed termination of the program and has maintained the sanctions
on imports from the United States. Consequently, Japan announced in August 2006
that it would maintain the tariff sanctions until October 1, 2007, and again extended
the sanctions for another year in August 2007.
WTO Dispute. On January 10, 2008, Japan requested permission from the
WTO to impose sanctions on U.S. imports valued at around $250 million in
retaliation for the failure of the United States to comply with a WTO Appellate Body
decision against the U.S. practice of “zeroing” in antidumping duty determinations.
The practice is one under which the U.S. Department of Commerce treats prices of
targeted imports that are above fair market value as zero dumping margin rather than
a negative margin. It results in higher overall dumping margins and U.S. trading
partners have claimed and the WTO has ruled that the practice violates WTO rules. 11
The Doha Development Agenda. Japan and the United States are major
supporters of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), the latest round of negotiations
in the WTO. Yet, the two have taken divergent positions in some critical areas of the
agenda. For example, the United States, Australia, and other major agricultural
exporting countries have pressed for the reduction or removal of barriers to
agricultural imports and subsidies of agricultural production, a position strongly
resisted by Japan and the European Union. At the same time, Japan and others have
argued that national antidumping laws and actions that member countries have taken
should be examined during the DDA, with the possibility of changing them, a
position that the United States has opposed.
In July 2006, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy suspended the negotiations
because, among other reasons, the major participants could not agree on the
modalities that negotiators would use to determine how much they would liberalize
their agricultural markets and reduce agricultural subsides. Negotiators have been
meeting in smaller groups to try to restart the talks. The resumption of negotiations
will depend in large part on whether the United States and Japan, along with the
European Union and developing countries, can resolve their differences.
Japanese Political Developments12
Fukuda’s Falling Popularity but Momentary Stability. After a
tumultuous 2007, Japanese politics has stabilized considerably, but still is likely to
face significant uncertainty in the months to come. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda,
For more information on the Byrd Amendment, see CRS Report RL33045, the Continued
Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act (“The Byrd Amendment”), by Jeanne J. Grimmett and
Vivian C. Jones.
International Trade Reporter. January 17, 2008.
This section was written by Mark Manyin and Emma Chanlett-Avery.
a pragmatic veteran of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), assumed the
premiership in September 2007 after his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, resigned suddenly.
Abe’s resignation was preceded by a major electoral defeat in parliamentary elections
by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the largest opposition party. As a result, the
DPJ took control of the Upper House, marking the first time that the LDP has lost
power in the less-powerful chamber of Japan’s bicameral legislature. The LDP still
comfortably controls the more powerful Lower House in a coalition with the smaller
Komei (“Clean Government”) party. DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa has succeeded in
constructing procedural obstacles to block parts of the LDP’s agenda. Since
assuming office, Fukuda’s public approval ratings have fallen steadily, to 30%-40%
range, and in early 2008, many polls recorded his non-support rate surpassing his
Although Fukuda’s public approval ratings remain low, many observers think
he will be able to postpone a general election for the Lower House until after Japan
hosts the G-8 summit in July 2008. There is widespread speculation that this
timetable is preferred by DPJ strategists, many of whom feel the party is not ready
for elections in the first half of 2008; perhaps because of this belief, the DPJ has
backed down on threats to hold a vote of no-confidence on the Fukuda Cabinet in the
early part of the year. A series of political missteps by Ozawa and a lack of unity in
the DPJ has diminished his and the party’s overall influence, as evidenced by the
Lower House’s January 2008 vote to override the Upper House’s rejection of the
legislation reauthorizing Japan’s naval deployment to the Indian Ocean (see “Recent
Developments” section). Thus, due the weakness of Japan’s two largest parties, the
Japanese political world appears to have entered a momentary period of stability, a
condition that few observers think will last past the summer.
In part because of the LDP’s tenuous hold on power, Fukuda is expected to
focus strongly on domestic economic issues, such as cleaning up the scandal-ridden
public pension system, in the coming months. He is not likely to pursue Abe’s
legislative agenda that sought to expand Japan’s ability to participate more actively
in regional and global security initiatives. Abe’s platform of enhancing Japan’s role
in global affairs had been encouraged by U.S. officials who saw alignment between
Japanese and U.S. strategic interests.
In general, Japan’s political peculiarities both constrain and enhance U.S.
influence over Japanese policy. Compared to most industrialized democracies, the
Japanese parliament is structurally weak, as is the office of the prime minister and his
cabinet. Though former Prime Minister Koizumi and his immediate predecessors
increased politicians’ influence relative to Japan’s bureaucrats, with important
exceptions Japan’s policymaking process tends to be compartmentalized and
bureaucratized, making it difficult to make trade-offs among competing
constituencies on divisive issues. The result is often paralysis or incremental changes
at the margins of policy. On some issues this can provide an opening to use foreign
pressure (gaiatsu) to break policy logjams.
On the other hand, the nature of Japan’s policymaking process often makes it
difficult for Japanese leaders to reach controversial agreements with foreign
countries. Japan’s structural debilities also have tended to retard its ability to act
decisively and proactively in the international sphere — often to the frustration of the
United States — though this characteristic is less pronounced today than the 1990s.
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). With its victory in the July 2007
Upper House election, the DPJ has re-emerged as a viable candidate to defeat the
LDP and created an opening for a two-party system in Japan. The LDP has ruled
almost continuously since its formation in 1955. The results represent a sharp
reversal from the DPJ’s showing in the 2005 Lower House elections, when the DPJ
lost more than one-third of its strength. With this win, the DPJ hopes to build on its
earlier progress: in several elections in the early part of the decade, the DPJ steadily
increased its strength in the Diet by winning over reform-minded urban and
independent voters. In the September 2005 election, however, many of these voters
opted for Koizumi’s LDP, in part because Koizumi was able to establish himself —
rather than the DPJ — as the symbol of reform. In the July 2007 elections, however,
the DPJ was able to capitalize on widespread discontent with Abe by emphasizing
economic and social security issues, and succeeded in winning over large numbers
of voters from the rural areas of Japan, usually an LDP stronghold.
Much of the credit for the DPJ’s victory has been accorded to Ozawa’s electoral
strategy. Ozawa was once a top LDP leader before he defected in mid-1993 to press
for sweeping reform in the Japanese political system. Since leaving the LDP, Ozawa
has pushed for reforming Japan’s political and economic systems, as well as adopting
a more assertive and independent foreign policy. Following his selection, Ozawa
stated that he would push for “a U.N.-centered national security policy” that has the
Japan-U.S. alliance “as a pivot, but emphasizes Asia.” In the past, Ozawa has been
hampered by what many see as his top-down management style and his political
Constitutional Revision. Japan’s constitution was drafted in 1946 by the
U.S. Occupation authorities, who then imposed it on a reluctant Japanese legislature.
Since the early 1990s, previously strong public opposition to revising the constitution
has gradually weakened and public opinion polls now show widespread support for
some sort of revision. In October 2005, the LDP released its long-awaited draft
revision of the Japanese constitution. The most notable changes reduce many —
though not all — of the provisions in the war-renouncing clause (Article 9) that set
limits on Japan’s military activities. After renouncing war and the “threat or use of
force as a means of settling international disputes,” the proposed revision explicitly
states that Japan “shall maintain armed forces for self-defense” that operate under the
prime minister and are subject to the Diet’s approval and direction. The explicit
mention of a military force is designed to rectify the disconnect between the current
constitution — which says that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war
potential, will never be maintained” — and the reality that Japan possesses a Self
Defense Force. More importantly, the LDP’s draft appears to allow Japan to
participate in collective security arrangements by stating that the armed forces “may
act in international cooperation to ensure the international community’s peace and
Both the LDP and the DPJ are split — with the DPJ’s internal divisions much
deeper — between relatively hawkish and pacifist wings that appear to be sparring
over the question of whether or not conditions (such as United Nations backing)
should be attached to the right to join collective security arrangements. In other
words, the issue is not whether, but how, Article 9 should be revised, a development
that is due in part to increased concerns about North Korea and China. In March
2005, Japan’s House of Representatives Research Commission on the Constitution,
composed of representatives from various parties, released a report indicating that
over two-thirds of members generally favor constitutional provisions allowing Japan
to join U.N. collective security arrangements, stipulating the Self-Defense Forces’
existence, and maintaining some portion of the war-renouncing clause of Article 9.
A wide majority of the commission also favored allowing women to serve as
emperor, establishing stronger privacy and environmental rights, creating a
constitutional court, and revising Japan’s federalist system.
Constitutional amendments must be approved by two-thirds of each chamber of
the Diet, after which they are to be “submitted to the people” for majority approval.
In May 2007, after over a year of debate, the Diet passed legislation detailing how a
national constitutional referendum would be conducted. However, the bill was
passed without any significant DPJ support. Indeed, the LDP-led coalition and the
DPJ proposed separate referendum bills, dampening hopes for the two camps to
cooperate on constitutional revision. Notably, according to the timetable outlined in
the bill that passed, the soonest that a national referendum could be held would be
three years after a referendum law is passed, i.e. 2010.
Japan’s Demographic Challenge
Japan’s combination of a low birth rate, strict immigration practices, and a
rapidly-ageing population present policymakers with a significant challenge. Polls
suggest that Japanese women are avoiding marriage and child-bearing because of the
difficulty of combining career and family in Japan; the birthrate has fallen to 1.25,
far below the 2.1 rate necessary to sustain a population size. Japan’s current
population of 128 million is projected to fall to about 100 million by mid-century.
Concerns about a huge shortfall in the labor force have grown, particularly as the
elderly demand more care. Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social
Security Research projects that the working-age population will fall from 85 million
in 2005 to 70 million by 2030. Japan’s immigration policies have traditionally been
strictly limited, but policy adjustments have allowed for a larger foreign labor force.
Over 68,000 foreign workers came to Japan in 2006 under a government-sponsored
training program, in addition to 80,000 on an extended program. 13 With government
encouragement, some private firms offer incentives to employees with children.
“Foreign Labor Works for Japan,” Wall Street Journal Asia. May 25, 2007.
H.R. 1570 (Mica). Provides compensation for certain World War II veterans
who survived the Bataan Death March and were held as prisoners of war by the
Japanese. Referred to House Committee on Armed Services on 3/19/2007.
H.R. 3650 (Ros-Lehtinen). Provides for the continuation of restrictions against
the government of North Korea unless the President certifies to Congress that the
government of North Korea has met certain benchmarks, including releasing the 15
Japanese nationals recognized as abduction victims by the National Police Agency
(NPA) of Japan. Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on 9/25/2007.
H.Res. 121 (Honda). Expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that
the Government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept
historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed
Force’s coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as
“comfort women,” during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific
Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II. Referred to the House
Committee on Foreign Affairs on 1/31/2007.
H.Res. 508 (Saxton). Recognizes the strong security alliance between the
government of Japan and the United States and expresses appreciation to Japan for
its role in enhancing stability in the Asia-Pacific region and its efforts in the global
war against terrorism. Passed/agreed to in House on 9/5/2007.
S. 1021 (Stabenow). Addresses the exchange-rate misalignment of the Japanese
yen with respect to the United States dollar, and for other purposes. Referred to
Senate Committee on Finance on 3/28/2007.
S. 1686, Sec. 6 (Landrieu). Establishes a United States-Japan Interparliamentary Group to meet once per Congress with representatives of the Diet of
Japan for discussion of common problems in the interest of relations between the
United States and Japan. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General
Orders on 6/25/2007.
S.Res. 399 (Brownback). Expresses the sense of the Senate that certain
benchmarks must be met before certain restrictions against the government of North
Korea are lifted, including that the government of North Korea has released or fully
accounted to the satisfaction of the government of the United States and the
government of the Republic of Korea for the whereabouts of the 15 Japanese
nationals recognized as abduction victims by the National Police Agency (NPA) of
Japan. Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations on 12/10/2007.
P.L. 109-5 (S. 384). Extends the existence of the Nazi War Crimes and
Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group for two years.
Passed by both houses and signed into law by President Bush in March 2005.
P.L. 109-97 (H.R. 2744). The Agriculture Appropriations Act of 2006. Signed
into law (P.L. 109-97) November 10, 2005. The Senate-passed version included two
amendments, adopted on September 20, 2005, that would have denied funds to
implement a rule to lift the U.S. ban on Japanese beef until Japan has lifted its ban
on imports of U.S. beef (S.Amdt. 1732 agreed to by a vote of 72-26); and that
expressed the sense of the Senate that the U.S. ban on imported Japanese beef should
remain in place until Japan has lifted its ban on imports of U.S. beef (S.Amdt. 1738,
agreed to by voice vote). House and Senate conferees did not include either
amendment in the final bill, though the conference report (H.Rept. 109-255) says
Congress “clearly reserve[s] the right to impose restrictions similar to those
suggested by the Senate if there is not a swift resolution to this issue.”
P.L. 109-114 (H.R. 2528). Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2006.
Section 118 requires the Defense Department to report by February 15 on U.S. efforts
to encourage Japan and other allied countries to increase their share of the allied
defense burden. Became public law on November 30, 2005.
P.L. 109-171 (S. 1932). The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The conference
report includes a repeal of the Byrd Amendment. Received final congressional action
on February 1, 2006, and was signed by the President into law on February 8, 2006.
The measure phases out the program over a period ending October 1, 2007.
H.Con.Res. 68 (Evans). Expresses the sense of Congress that the Government
of Japan should formally issue a clear and unambiguous apology for the sexual
enslavement of “comfort women” during the colonial occupation of Asia. Introduced
March 17, 2005; referred to House Asia Pacific Subcommittee.
H.Con.Res. 168 (Hyde). Condemns the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea for the abductions and continued captivity of citizens of the Republic of Korea
and Japan. Passed by the House (362-1) on July 11, 2005; referred to Senate Foreign
H.Con.Res. 191 (Hyde). Commemorates the 60th anniversary of the
conclusion of the War in the Pacific and reaffirms the judgments rendered by the
International Military Tribunal for the Far East of 1946-1948, including the
conviction of certain individuals as war criminals. Passed by the House (399-0) on
July 14, 2005; referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
H.Con.Res. 311 (Ramstad)/S.Con.Res. 67 (Coleman). Urges Japan to honor
its commitments under a 1986 bilateral agreement on medical equipment and
pharmaceuticals. House bill introduced December 7, 2005; referred to House Ways
and Means Committee. Senate bill introduced November 18, 2005; referred to
Foreign Relations Committee.
H.R. 4179 (Salazar) and S. 1922 (Conrad). Require the President to impose
extra tariffs on various Japanese products beginning on January 1, 2006, if Japan has
not lifted its ban on imports of U.S. beef. H.R. 4179 introduced October 28, 2005;
referred to House Ways and Means Committee. S. 1922 introduced October 26,
2005; referred to Senate Finance Committee.
H.Res. 137 (Moran)/S.Res. 87 (Thune). Expresses the sense of the respective
Houses that the U.S. government should impose economic sanctions against Japan
if it does not lift its ban on U.S. beef. Neither resolution has seen committee action.
H.Res. 321 (Leach). Expresses support for a “regionally balanced expansion”
of the membership of the United Nations Security Council, which would include
adding Japan, India, Germany, Brazil, and an African country. Introduced June 15,
2005; referred to the House Committee on International Relations.
H.Res. 759 (Evans). Expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that
the Government of Japan should formally acknowledge and accept responsibility for
its sexual enslavement of young women, known to the world as “comfort women,”
during its colonial occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through
the duration of World War II, and for other purposes. Committee Agreed to Seek
Consideration Under Suspension of the Rules (Amended) by Unanimous Consent.
S. 377 (Lieberman). Requires negotiation and appropriate action with Japan,
China, and other countries that have engaged in currency manipulation. Introduced
February 15, 2005; referred to Senate Finance Committee.