Past Events

Dr. Brad Williams discusses bilateralism between the U.S. and Japanese Foreign Intelligence

On June 1st of 2021, The Institute of World Politics hosted a virtual webinar titled Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy sponsored by the Asia Initiative Lecture Series (AILS).

Dr. Williams’s remarks were based on his recently published book, Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy: From the Cold War to the Abe Era (Georgetown University Press). He spoke to the audience about Japan’s intelligence community and its relationship to the United States during the Cold War.

About the Speaker

Dr. Brad Williams is an associate professor in the Department of Asian and International Studies at the City University of Hong Kong. He has published on a diverse range of issues in Japanese politics and foreign policy.

The U.S. and Japan’s Foreign Intelligence

Dr. Williams began his lecture by presenting the main argument for his book: “The United States assisted in establishing intelligence organizations in Japan that would serve as liaison partners and engage in various forms of joint operations in pursuit of regional geostrategic objectives during the Cold War. Other liaison mechanisms served a similar function and were also employed as a means of keeping a junior ally under Washington’s intelligence umbrella. [However], while Japanese foreign intelligence largely adhered to bilateralist norms, the relationship did occasionally cause tensions between the respective intelligence communities and their political overseers.”

Dr. Williams noted that Japan’s intelligence community is said to lack a specialized foreign intelligence agency and has firm civilian control over human intelligence and signal intelligence. Consequently, Dr. Williams makes two broad claims. First, he is interested in the interrelationship between what he thinks are significant standards embedded within Japan’s grand strategy and, second, how entrepreneurs have managed different opportunities and limitations within Japan’s national and regional policy circumstances. During his remarks, Dr. Williams presented on chapter 3 of his book, “Beneath the Umbrella: Bilateralism and Japanese Cold War Foreign Intelligence,” where he talks about the U.S.-Japan intelligence liaison.

Grand Strategy and Norms

Dr. Williams said that grand strategy can be defined as how a country sees itself in relation to other nations and the means and norms used to achieve long-term goals. Some have argued that Japan does not have a grand strategy. However, Dr. Williams disagrees and believes that grand strategy has evolved to consist of the adjustment of domestic and international means for security in war and peace.

Bilateralism and Japanese Foreign Intelligence

Dr. Williams focused his remarks on the Yoshida Doctrine and bilateralism with the United States, developmentalism, techno-nationalism, and antimilitarism. At first, the Japanese left-wing opposed the U.S.-Japan alliance as it could bring conflict with its communist neighbors, public opinion, and democracy. However, ultimately, bilateralism was achieved, and the United States served as a “tutor” to Japanese intelligence in agencies such as the KATOH Agency,

Cabinet Research Chamber (CRC), Musashi Agency, and Nibetsu. During his presentation, Dr. Williams explained how each of these agencies transformed and influenced bilateralism and the Japanese intelligence community.

Notably, from his presentation, one learns how the primary goal of the United States was to empower Japan to serve as an ally against communist expansion and provide knowledge to Japanese intelligence. However, in efforts to reinforce bilateral bonds within the HUMINT and SIGINT units and other agencies, there was some discontent and mistrust from the Japanese members and their role as subservient junior allies.

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