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Biden's Asia policy

Include Japan in Six Eyes, Armitage-Nye report says

Quad should be inclusive, US should rejoin TPP, authors argue

Sailors man the NATO Sea Sparrow missile system control console in the combat information center aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

NEW YORK -- For the first time in its history, Japan is taking an equal if not leading role in the U.S.-Japan alliance, implementing new strategies to shape a regional order at a time when America has been unsteady, a bipartisan study group at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank wrote in a report released Monday.

It was the fifth and most recent version of the so-called Armitage-Nye report, led by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye, former dean of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Two decades ago, in the days leading up to the 2000 U.S. presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, the first Armitage-Nye report criticized the Clinton administration's ad hoc approach to the alliance and pushed for consistency and strategic direction in the partnership.

After Armitage joined the Bush administration as deputy secretary of state -- along with several members of the 16-member study group, such as Paul Wolfowitz, Michael Green and James Kelly -- the report became the blueprint for the Bush administration's Japan policy.

Monday's report, "The U.S.-Japan Alliance in 2020: An equal alliance with a global agenda," laid out proposals for President-elect Joe Biden and his administration.

Whereas the 2000 report dwelled at length on matters for Tokyo to address, such as collective self-defense, the 2020 report positions the U.S. and Japan as equal partners with shared values that need to align their strategies to meet the challenges posed by a rising China.

"Both countries must be prepared for a regional and world order under more stress than at any time in the last 70 years," the authors wrote.

Richard Armitage speaks at a dinner in Washington in 2012. The first Armitage-Nye report was published in 2000, less than a month before the Bush-Gore presidential election. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense)

In specific proposals, the report encouraged new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to maintain the "dynamic regional leadership" that Japan had exercised under predecessor Shinzo Abe -- such as leading the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and envisioning a "free and open Indo-Pacific" -- and advocated that Suga be one of the earliest visitors to meet with Biden.

The report also called for adding Japan to the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network of the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand. "The United States and Japan should make serious efforts to move toward a Six Eyes network," the group said.

Speaking at an online launch event for the report Monday, Armitage said that "the difficulties with moving to a Six Eyes, I think, are almost entirely in Japan to come up with a process in which you can appropriately share intel with a very limited number of Diet members."

Armitage said that the Five Eyes are willing to share more intelligence with Japan on issues related to security, the economy and technology, if Japan can establish a mechanism like in the U.S., where members of Congress receive intelligence briefings under strict confidentiality.

The study group members revealed that there are differences of opinion on the future of the Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, between the U.S., Japan, India and Australia, which gained relevance during the Trump administration.

The report noted that "Japan has enhanced bilateral and trilateral coordination with Australia and India, leading the Quad to take on a promising new role."

It added: "If the Quad is to become a more integral part of the region's order, however, it will have to be inclusive to avoid overshadowing other regional institutions or coalitions."

Study group member Zack Cooper, a research fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, acknowledged the Quad as "increasingly the go-to" strategic coalition in Asia, since it includes three of America's key allies and partners in the region, but predicted that the Quad will feature less in the Biden administration.

"Often the Trump administration put a lot of effort into the Quad, and probably in the view of many downgraded ASEAN, downgraded some of the other U.S. relationships in the region," at their expense, he said at the online event.

"The challenge now for the Biden team is, how do you keep this momentum going on the Quad, while still investing more time and energy into some relationships that frankly are in ... worse shape than they used to be," including the U.S. relationship with ASEAN and with South Korea, Cooper said.

"In my view, one thing that will be really critical for the Quad and for all four countries, individually, is to help the U.S. pivot back to Southeast Asia," he said.

The report also noted that in the current U.S. political climate, "Absent a robust economic component -- encompassing trade, technology, infrastructure, and energy -- any strategy in the Indo-Pacific will be empty and unsustainable."

The authors called on the Biden administration to indicate quickly that it is willing to rejoin the CPTPP "and have a seat at the table."

"The political difficulties of joining are clear, but a larger risk to U.S. prosperity and security makes joining imperative," the report said. "The November 15 signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a broad Asia-Pacific trade deal that does not include the United States, should be a wake-up call in Washington," it added.

The report called for the U.S. and Japan to expand partnerships in clean energy and climate. "Priority clean energy technologies for joint development include hydrogen; battery storage (key to transportation electrification and scaling up renewables); carbon capture, storage, and recycling; and smart grids."

The authors dedicated the report to the memory of former Japanese diplomat Yukio Okamoto, who died earlier this year from COVID-19.

"If there was anyone who embodied the spirit of the U.S.-Japan relationship better than Yukio Okamoto, I don't know who it was," Armitage said at the online event.

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