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Former U.S. policymakers on Monday welcomed a July 1 decision by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, saying it will invigorate the Japan-U.S. alliance and create firmer deterrence against China's military buildup and territorial ambitions.
"This is something that is welcomed broadly in the region, with perhaps an exception of China," former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said at a news conference in Tokyo where a group of U.S. and Japanese experts released an interim report on the future of the alliance.
"And it's something I think it's going to really invigorate the U.S.-Japan relationship," Armitage said.
Armitage said he and other security experts have feared Japan's ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, or defending an ally under armed attack, would not enable Japanese ships traveling alongside U.S. ships to help them even if they come under attack from some enemy. "We are actually thrilled that that's not going to happen now," he said.
Joseph Nye, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said Japan's decision to reinterpret the Constitution to expand the role of the Self-Defense Forces "will mean a more effective alliance, will mean that we will shape an environment in which China will have incentives to act responsibly."
Using an analogy, Nye, now a distinguished service professor at Harvard University, said, "If you go to a restaurant and you have a menu in front of you with no prices, you may have a very large appetite. If you get a menu with prices, you may decide to eat a little less."
"The job of the U.S.-Japan security alliance is to make sure that there is a cost on this menu, prices on the menu, which means that we can shape the environment so that Chinese leaders will be more cautious and act responsibly," he said.
Including the two former officials, a 12-member commission of Japanese and U.S. experts and former policymakers said in the interim report, "If the alliance is modernized and made more robust across a range of possible futures for China, the basic power equation will remain the same through 2030, the time frame of this commission's study."
"Together, the United States and Japan present a partnership that can prevent China from achieving its territorial ambitions through military force," it says.
The report calls for integrating China into "a rule-based Asia Pacific community" so as to achieve a more peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region.
The report also recognizes the need to repair ties between Japan and South Korea, the importance of coordination among Tokyo, Seoul and Washington in curbing North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons development, as well as Pyongyang's role as an increasing strategic liability for Beijing.
The panel will aim to incorporate findings into a final report to be released by the end of 2015 that will define a common U.S. and Japanese vision and goals for the future of Asia through 2030.
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