“The North Korean Nuclear Threat and the US-Japan Security Alliance” (Fletcher Forum, Winter 2005)
The problem of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has emerged as the driving force of Japan’s growing security consciousness and activism and as a principal issue in U.S.-Japan alliance relations. North Korea’s increasingly threatening nuclear and ballistic missile programs have been central to a major post-Cold War shift in Japan’s security outlook toward both increasing direct military cooperation with the U.S. and greater defense self-sufficiency. For example, in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi provided unprecedented noncombat logistical support to U.S. military operations in the Indian Ocean. Japan has also played a leading role in organizing and providing international assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Additionally, on the highly contentious issue of Iraq, the Koizumi government broke with traditional Japanese reticence and gave strong and outspoken diplomatic support to the Bush administration before the American and British-led attack. In early 2004 Japan sent noncombat troops to Iraq to conduct humanitarian relief and to assist reconstruction, despite the absence of a clear United Nations mandate.