Fri, 05 Dec 2003

U.S. deterrent role important in Asia

The Daily Yomiuri, Asia News Network, Tokyo

U.S. President George W. Bush said in late November that his administration would intensify talks with the U.S. Congress and with the United States' allies and security partners on a global realignment of U.S. troops and bases.

With the scheduled realignment, the U.S. government intends to place the right capabilities in the most appropriate locations to best address the new security environment characterized by a heightened threat from terrorists that emerged after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.

The realignment of U.S. forces is certain to have significant impacts on the security of the U.S.' allies. In this regard, we urge Washington to conduct in-depth and comprehensive negotiations with its allies to ensure that their security will be maintained and strengthened.

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has maintained regional stability and international security by deploying 100,000 troops in Europe and the same number in Asia.

The planned realignment will mean a change in the way U.S. forces are deployed around the world. With the aim of enabling U.S. forces to move with the greatest agility, U.S. bases and troop deployment will be restructured on a global scale. The alignment will focus on capability rather than on boosting troop numbers and materiel. It may lead to the reduction of U.S. forces stationed abroad.

But restructuring U.S. forces in Asia must take into account the reality that the security environment in the region is different from that in Europe.

During the Cold War, European countries maintained stability in the region under the collective security framework of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But after the end of the Cold War, the threat posed by the Soviet Union disappeared. Therefore, the reduction of U.S. troops and relocation of U.S. bases would be easy. It is said that about 70,000 U.S. troops in Germany will be either cut or transferred to bases in Poland and other East European countries.

On the other hand, there is no such collective security framework in Asia. In addition, even after the end of the Cold War, a number of potential conflict triggers remain, such as the Korean Peninsula, the Taiwan Strait and the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. In this regard, the deterrent provided by U.S. forces is vital in Asia.

North Korea, which continues developing nuclear weapons and missiles, poses a serious threat to Japan. Pyongyang maintains a menacing attitude toward Seoul, claiming that it could turn the South Korean capital into a sea of flames.

From the viewpoint of security in Northeast Asia, Japan must closely watch how U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan will be realigned.

As for U.S. forces in South Korea, the U.S. and South Korea have agreed to gradually move U.S. troops away from the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. The U.S. claims that new weapons technologies will make it possible to maintain deterrence on the Korean Peninsula.

However, the pullback must be conducted cautiously, paying close attention to developments on the peninsula.

On the other hand, U.S. forces in Japan have been playing the role of ensuring security in the entire region. Of course, it is necessary to examine how to ease the excessive burdens placed on Okinawa Prefecture, where most U.S. military facilities in the country are concentrated, but the planned realignment must not end up weakening the deterrent role U.S. forces play in the region.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the realignment of U.S. forces will be carried out over a period of four to six years.

During negotiations over the realignment of U.S. forces in the country, Japan, as a U.S. ally, must closely watch changes in the security environment in the region and build a new security plan for the nation.