Cablegate: Shaping Japan's Afghan Deployment Decisions


DE RUEHKO #1657/01 1690903
O 170903Z JUN 08

S E C R E T TOKYO 001657



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/16/2018

REF: A. TOKYO 1464
B. TOKYO 1593
C. SECDEF DTG 031932Z JUN 08
D. TOKYO 1623

Classified By: Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer; Reasons: 1.4 (b/d)

1. (S/NF) Summary: The Japanese government is struggling to
find a strategy to terminate its C-130 mission to Iraq and
start a new deployment to Afghanistan to ""off-set"" its
decision to opt-out of the Iraq coalition. The U.S.
political calendar appears to weigh heavily on Japanese
deliberations -- the GOJ is expressing a desire to end its
Iraq deployments by the end of the Bush Administration so
that it can get credit for a new Afghan mission from the
incoming U.S. administration. Domestic political turmoil and
disunity within the Fukuda Cabinet, however, are hampering
efforts to formulate a coherent operational and legislative
strategy or manage U.S. expectations. Japan will continue
discussions after its survey team returns from Afghanistan on
June 18 with an eye towards making a Cabinet-level decision
by the end of the month. The G-8 Summit in Hokkaido likely
increases the pressure on Japan to make a more robust Afghan
contribution. End Summary.

Mixed Messages

2. (S/NF) During June 16-17 meetings in Tokyo, ASD for Asia
and Pacific Security Affairs Shinn received a range of views
on Japan's thinking regarding a possible new Afghan
Self-Defense Force (SDF) dispatch. Deputy Vice Foreign
Minister Chikao Kawai talked about the logic of moving up the
termination of Japan's Iraqi operations and making a new
contribution to Afghanistan (Refs A/B). Kawai underscored
the importance of the American political calendar, noting
that Japan would prefer to close out the Iraq mission before
the next U.S. administration takes office in January.

3. (S/NF) Kawai asserted that there have been no formal
discussions over which of the three main operations currently
being studied by the survey team in Afghanistan -- C-130
logistical flights; Japanese participation in a PRT; and
dispatch of CH-47s -- Japan might pursue. Nevertheless, ASD
Shinn was treated to a variety of often conflicting opinions
on specific missions, even from within the same agency.
Ministry of Defense (MOD) Vice Minister Kohei Masuda, for
example, listed the CH-47 dispatch as the ""most possible"" of
the three options. MOD Defense Policy Bureau DG Nobushige
Takamizawa dismissed such positive signals on the CH-47s from
Masuda and Minister of Defense Shigeru Ishiba (Refs C/D),
suggesting that the two MOD leaders ""had their heads in the
clouds."" Takamizawa urged the U.S. government to forget
about the CH-47s and ""concentrate instead on realistic
missions such as fixed wing aircraft and PRTs.""

4. (S/NF) Joint Staff Office (JSO) Chairman Admiral Takashi
Saito told USFJ Commander Lt. Gen. Rice on June 12 that a
CH-47 dispatch is extremely difficult for a number of
operational, legal, and political reasons. Lt. Gen. Rice
responded that Minister Ishiba's message to the Secretary of
Defense on the CH-47 mission had raised expectations at the
highest levels of the U.S. government. MOFA Foreign Policy
Bureau DDG Kazuyoshi Umemoto suggested that Japan has, in
fact, altered its approach on the CH-47s based on Ishiba's
meeting in Singapore. The government had been officially
""negative"" on the CH-47s before Ishiba's ""positive"" signal to
Secretary Gates, Umemoto commented, but ""now the government
is 'neutral'"" towards the option.

Cabinet Disunity

5. (S/NF) There appear to be more fundamental differences
among key Cabinet Ministers over whether any type of new
mission is viable. Taku Yamasaki, head of the Liberal
Democratic Party's (LDP) Project Team on Self-Defense Force
(SDF) legislation, told ASD Shinn that Prime Minister Yasuo
Fukuda and his Chief Cabinet Secretary, Nobutaka Machimura,
have held different views on Afghan strategy. It is
Machimura, he added, who had been driving the government's
policy to date, including the dispatch of the survey team to
the region. PM Fukuda, he assessed, has been much less
enthusiastic about taking on any new operation. Yamasaki
said that Machimura seems to be stepping back from his
previous stance in light of the political challenges.
Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Kyoji Yanagisawa suggested
the same, telling ASD Shinn that Machimura has decided that
it is too hard politically to do anything more than extend
the current operation. Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura
told the Ambassador that he, too, is deeply pessimistic about
prospects for securing legislative authority for a major new
operation in the current fragile political environment.

Political Dynamics

6. (S/NF) Other officials and politicians take a more
optimistic view on Diet prospects. MOFA's Umemoto said that
if Japan were to package a new Afghan deployment with a
decision to terminate the unpopular Iraq mission, the
government could solicit support from the normally
recalcitrant opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). DPJ
Vice President Katsuya Okada voiced a similar view, stating
that ""the public would be much more willing to support a new
Afghan deployment if it was coupled with a pullout from
Iraq."" Okada suggested that the U.S. leverage the Afghan
government and NATO partners in both the lead-up to the G-8
Summit in July and in the public arena to demonstrate the
importance of Japan's participation in ground operations in
Afghanistan. Afghan Ambassador to Tokyo Haron Amin, echoing
an offer to ASD Shinn in Paris from Afghan National Security
Advisor Zalmai Rassoul in Paris, said that he is prepared to
spearhead public efforts to secure a new Japanese deployment
on the ground.

Tight Timelines

7. (S/NF) Japanese officials acknowledge that time is running
short to bridge internal divisions over a possible new Afghan
operation. The survey team is scheduled to brief the Cabinet
Office and Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense
immediately after their return on June 18. ACCS Yanagisawa
told ASD Shinn that the three Ministers will meet during the
week of June 23 to agree on a recommendation for the Prime
Minister. Due to tight diplomatic and political calendars,
the government will have to decide quickly on what type of
operation to pursue and how to go about securing Diet
approval for it. MOD's Takamizawa asserted that a U.S.
decision to send experts to Tokyo to follow-up on the survey
team visit ""should depend on whether the issue will be on the
agenda"" for the G-8 in early July. The LDP's Yamasaki noted
that the Fukuda government will need to set a policy
direction soon in order to allow time to draft legislation to
either enable the extension of the current Indian Ocean
refueling operation or authorize a new mission in
Afghanistan. The government is seeking to start an
extraordinary Diet session in late August so that the Lower
House can override an expected opposition veto of new
legislation in the Upper House before the refueling operation
expires in January. The opposition can delay an override
vote for up to 60 days.

Substance over Form

8. (S/NF) During his meetings, ASD Shinn emphasized that a
token contribution in Afghanistan will not be helpful or
appreciated by the international community. Afghanistan is
truly a coalition effort and a symbolic presence like Japan
maintains in Iraq would be considered counterproductive.
Sending a dozen people to a PRT or a handful of C-130s will
fall far short of the bar for being operationally
significant. The Ambassador suggested to DVFM Kawai that in
the U.S. domestic political context, public patience is
wearing thin over the unwillingness of U.S. allies to make
substantive contributions to achieve common objectives. ASD
Shinn expressed appreciation for Defense Minister Ishiba's
commitment to consider seriously the dispatch of CH-47s. In
addition to this critical requirement, he urged Japan to take
charge of a full PRT, including providing force protection,
as well as to look at sending ""significant"" fixed-wing
elements to assist with logistics and surveillance.

Comment: Managing the Clock

9. (S/NF) Interval disarray and political bickering are
hampering the GOJ's ability to articulate a coherent strategy
on a new contribution to Afghanistan. At the same time, the
Japanese are becoming incresaingly concerned about having a
""successful"" summit as a result of diverging views with the
U.S. on other issues like climate change. The chance for
getting Japan to make a substantial rather than symbolic
contribution to Afghanistan will be greatest in the lead up
to the G-8. If the Secretary and the President could make
such a request in their respective bilats with Japan, they
may get results. Otherwise, we judge it will be very hard to
get the Japanese to move in any substantial way.

© Scoop Media

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