An official at the US Department of Defense recently said that the US government welcomes Japan’s efforts to normalize its role in the international community to contribute to peace and regional security in Northeast Asia.
This announcement is regarded as an expression of its official support for Japan’s right of collective self-defense. Moreover, many US officials are considering this expansion of Japan’s power inevitable in order to deal with the security threats in the region. In international politics, the right of collective self-defense is defined as the right to launch counterattacks when an ally is under attack, considering it as an invasion of the entire alliance.
Under the circumstances, the South Korean government is trying to alleviate the concerns of the general public by saying that the right of collective self-defense does not cover the Korean peninsula, because Washington’s support presumes Japan’s military role is within the framework of the US-Japan Alliance not to allow Tokyo to take its own way.
The US government is also claiming that it is fully aware of what many Koreans are worried about, saying that it means a stronger deterrent against the military threats faced by the US, Japan, and South Korea. It also clarified that Washington and Tokyo will have to go through in-depth policy coordination with Seoul when it comes to the Korean peninsula.
The Korean government is likely to block any negative impact on its national and security interests via the ROK-US alliance and by intervening actively in the Japan Guideline revision process.
Still, the ROK-US alliance is quite different from that of the US and Japan, which is on the rise for American global strategists. The former is a result of the Cold War era, whereas the latter has more to do with the modern-day containment of China, a nascent second world superpower. This is why many Korean diplomatic experts are concerned over the possibility of the ROK-US alliance being demoted to a limited role compared to the US-Japan alliance.
China shares Korea’s concerns over Japan’s expansion of the military role. Although Washington is trying to stand aloof from historical conflicts in the region while maintaining the three-party alliance between itself, Seoul, and Tokyo, it is likely to have a hard time mustering support from the Korean people. This is a dilemma for the Korean government, too.
Both Korea and the US need to respect the other party’s national interests while making more practical efforts for the cooperation and coordination they need. In particular, Washington needs to gain sympathy for its global strategies from the nation and people concerned by admitting that it has played at least a part of the ongoing historical and territorial disputes in Northeast Asia.