Let Japan Remilitarize | Opinion

America's interests at home and abroad are no longer served by footing the defense bill for a demilitarized Japan. It's time to fully unleash the extraordinary resilience of the Japanese people to help the U.S. better ward off communist China's regional aggression.

As China ramps up its militarization of the South and East China Seas, it not only threatens Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia and other countries, but also tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed in Japan.

A nation like Japan doesn't need the U.S. occupying any of its land. Even if it did, U.S. military members shouldn't be made needlessly vulnerable to Chinese attacks. Yes, the U.S. and Japan need each other militarily, but the current arrangement undermines the potential of each country and the alliance they share.

Any criticism that would liken U.S. withdrawal from Okinawa to "isolationism" or deserting Japan must be preemptively dismissed. The last thing the U.S. wants is a weakened Japan, because it is the only country capable of leading the necessary regional coalition to stand up to China.

China is now capable of hitting U.S. positions in Japan with about 1,000 ballistic or land-attack cruise missiles, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. This is a result of Chinese buildup in the South and East China Seas—a military hegemony that also coincided with broader Chinese economic hegemony.

Many of China's fortified man-made and expanded islands in the South China Sea are capable of use as forwarding bases for air force activities and missile launches. They are already helping the Chinese bully other countries in the area, with China sinking a Vietnamese fishing vessel in April.

However, as President Donald Trump has made clear, a proper solution to the vexing China problem involves not just the military, but also significant economic actions. Other nations must step up and work together toward a common end regarding China. Japan is itself an undisputed economic leader, and its currently limited military capabilities shouldn't be a reason to underestimate its potential in offsetting China's encroachment.

It is possible that no other country has so quickly gone from such complete decimation to such great heights as has Japan. Its empire and mainland were decimated at the end of World War II. The U.S. carpet-bombed the island and dropped two nuclear bombs on civilian and commercial centers. Two million military members died, while the civilian death figures range from 500,000 to one million.

Less than a quarter century later, Japan's economy roared to become the second largest in the world. The Japanese people again proved their fortitude after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 16,000 people, leaving millions without electricity and water. The nation's competence was further revealed during the coronavirus pandemic, as its decentralized public health centers helped keep the national death toll below 900 by the end of May without any mass surveillance, lockdowns, stay-at-home orders or mass testing.

That same national spirit can lead Japan to improve and grow its military capabilities.

The rationale for taking Okinawa and demilitarizing Japan, in the first place, was in part to punish it for its imperial conquests. Now 75 years later, the threat of Japanese imperialism is long gone. Why must American punishment continue for the sins of elderly Japanese grandparents?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Kim Kyung-Hoon - Pool/Getty Images

Consider the cost to the U.S. taxpayer. Just the last three fiscal years have seen the U.S. Department of Defense spend over $16.2 billion in Japan. Nearly a quarter of all U.S. military spending on overseas bases and deployments is spent in Japan. Needless to say, Japan spends a fraction of that to host U.S. forces. Even what it spends on U.S. weapons transfers doesn't add up to what the U.S. spends there.

What's more, about 90 percent of Japanese citizens hold a favorable view of the Self-Defense Force (SDF), the country's quasi-military force. It's time to let the SDF serve its people to the full extent possible.

Japan has accomplished incredible feats since its becoming demilitarized, but it hasn't truly made itself whole, despite nominally regaining sovereignty in 1951. Let Japan be whole again and free up American resources so that both countries can work more effectively together than ever before—especially against the generational threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party. The task at hand demands it.

Gavin Wax is president of the New York Young Republican Club, chair of the Association of Young Republican Clubs, digital director for the Young Republican National Federation, an associate fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a frequent guest on Fox News. You can follow him on Twitter at @GavinWax.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.