Insights into the U.S.-Japan Security Relationship (Summary) – 2014 Annual Conference

The following is a summary of the breakout session “Insights into the U.S.-Japan Security Relationship” at the 2014 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference on October 10, 2014.


  • Mr. Torkel Patterson, Vice Chairman, International High Speed Rail Association (moderator)
  • Mr. Naoyuki Agawa, Professor, Keio University (invited)
  • Major General Michael B. Compton, Air National Guard Assistant to Commander, Pacific Air Forces
  • Hon. Tulsi Gabbard, United States House of Representatives (D-HI2) and Member, House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee

The panel explored the U.S.-Japan security relationship through different perspectives including “hard power,” which focused on maintaining regional stability, and “soft power,” which examined social engagement.

Mr. Torkel Patterson moderated the panel that included Professor Naoyuki Agawa, Maj. Gen. Michael B. Compton, the Honorable Tulsi Gabbard and Mr. Chuck Jones.

The panel first addressed “hard power” security issues. With the shift by the United States to “rebalance” towards Asia, the role of the U.S.-Japan Alliance takes increasing importance. Professor Agawa noted that the United States and Japan are both strongly committed to the Security Alliance. From Japan’s perspective, they will take on a larger role in maintaining regional security with the expansion of security duties. The Japanese public is generally in favor of an increased security role in the Asia Pacific, but it is less clear whether the public agrees to commit troops to support their defense buildup. Japan has also created a National Security Council, which allows the administration to share vital security information with other countries. Other Asian countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam support Japan’s increased security role in the region.

Maj. Gen. Compton noted that the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance is the cornerstone for maintaining peace in the Pacific. The Alliance is not limited to defense, but also extends to piracy, human trafficking, drugs, natural disasters, cyber-security, organized crime, territorial disputes and pandemic diseases. Cooperation and coordination between the United States and Japan is critical not only to Japan but also to neighboring countries. While the Alliance is limited to two countries, the vision and intent of the Alliance is more regional, and anticipates coordinated efforts between the United States and Japan for the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Rep. Gabbard noted that Hawaii is especially well-positioned to be a connector between the two countries as Hawaii has a cultural understanding of both countries. Security is critical to Hawaii since North Korea now has missiles that have the range to reach Hawaii. Sequestration in DC as well as inaction in Congress has made it difficult to fund and implement some of the Alliance’s initiatives.

Mr. Jones noted that Japan has the technological capability to make high-level weapons but that they are not ready to supply arms on a global level. Japan will need to develop guidelines and regulations on international arm sales. He envisions the Japanese defense industry working as partners with American companies in developing key defense equipment but not working independently at this time. This could change in the future if Japanese industries commit to developing high-level defense technology. Finally, the limited growth of the Japanese economy makes it difficult to grow and expand the military sector. The increases in this sector will be limited for the foreseeable future until the Japanese economy shows major improvement.

The session was attended by about 100 people and there was great interest in hearing the different perspectives from a Japanese academic, a military person, a defense contractor and an elected official serving on the Armed Services committee.

Click here to learn more about the 2014 Annual Conference.