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East Asian security discussed

Experts from Japan and the United States on military strategy and nonproliferation in Asia listened to professors from both countries discuss the dynamics of "The Japan-China-US Triangle and East Asian Security" last Thursday in Wong Auditorium.

The session attracted an audience of about 150. It was sponsored jointly by the MIT Japan Program and Gaiko Forum, a Japanese foreign affairs journal, and supported by the consul general of Japan in Boston, Shinichi Kitajima.

The panelists were Associate Professor Thomas J. Christensen and Professor Richard J. Samuels of political science, and Professors Seiichiro Takagi of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and Akihiko Tanaka of the University of Tokyo.

"We will be very fortunate indeed if the US-Japan alliance is not tested," Professor Samuels said in his opening remarks. With this in mind, he suggested that the United States' interests in the area might be best served by a "bottom-up review" of US options. "Once this is done," he said, "choosing between alternative strategies and the status quo can be more objectively considered."

He discussed two "suboptimal alternatives" to the US-Japan alliance: restraint/isolationism and multilateralism. In addition, he explored four other possibilities: maintaining the status quo; a standoff option by which the US abandons its bases and monitors the region from afar; the formation of a new alliance with, for instance, Australia, the Philippines or Vietnam; and reciprocity.

"Each of these latter options has attractions and difficulties," he said. "While the alliance status quo may be best in the short term, in the longer run, some variant of the multilateral option -- one backed by a realist insurance policy -- may be the most attractive of all."

Other topics discussed included:

  • The US-Japan alliance as the central structural feature of security relations in the region and how much the Japan-China and China-US relations grew out of the US-Japan alliance.
  • Whether the US-Japan alliance had been sufficiently bolstered since the end of the cold war to meet the challenges of the contemporary era.
  • ������How the unhappy history of the China-Japan relationship could affect reconciliation in the near future.

A version of this article appeared in the March 17, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 23).

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