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Community Conversation/ Yokota: An Imperial Japan Army Base Now at the Center of the US-Japan Alliance

On March 3, 2022, over 116 participants attended the YCAPS-Sasakawa Peace Foundation co-sponsored webinar presented by Dr. Michael Bosack. Dr. Bosack discussed “Yokota: An Imperial Japan Army Base Now at the Center of the US-Japan Alliance.” Dr. Bosack is the Special Advisor for Government Relations at the Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies. His last posting in the Air Force was as the Deputy Chief of Government Relations at Headquarters, U.S. Forces, Japan. The webinar was moderated by John Bradford, Executive Director of YCAPS and was joined by a wide range of participants, including current and former service members, locals in the Yokota community, scholars, and many others with a keen interest in the US-Japan alliance.

Dr. Bosack began his presentation by sharing his personal connection to Yokota, having grown up in Camp Zama and later serving in Yokota while in the US Air Force. Dr. Bosack then took the audience on a thorough trip through the history of the US-Japan alliance through the lens of Yokota’s base, beginning with the wartime era of 1941-1945 through the preset post-3.11 era. One of the clear themes running through this 80-year history has been the resilience of this key bilateral relationship and its ability to adapt to a changing environment, along with Japan’s evolution into a leader in the current rules-based international order. Dr. Bosack finished his presentation with an overview of the key units and organizations that are based out of Yokota, highlighting not only the US presence, but also the United Nations Command-rear, a demonstration of Yokota as a bastion of Japan’s modern multilateralism.  

Dr. Tomonori Yoshizaki, Director of Policy Simulation at the National Institute of Defense Studies, provided comments on the presentation from the Japanese perspective. Dr. Yoshizaki compared the US-Japan security relationship with NATO and highlighted the importance of adaptation. The ability to adapt to change has been the defining characteristic of the relationship, exemplified by missions like Operation TOMODACHI. Dr. Yoshizaki further highlighted  three keys to Yokota’s importance: the hub and spoke network, multilateralism, and the roles, missions, and capabilities located on the base. 

After Dr. Yoshizaki’s comments, the talk shifted into an open Q&A moderated by John Bradford. This included numerous wide-ranging questions for both Dr, Bosack and Dr. Yoshizaki. Questions included how the current situation regarding Russia and Ukraine affects the traditional deterrence strategy and relationships centered in Yokota, US-Japan coordination in the Senkaku islands, multilateral coordination to protect Taiwan, and the process to handle Japanese concerns with the bilateral relationship. Other topics included a discussion of airspace issues, an in-depth look at alliance management, and the key issues involved in the decision making process.

In closing, the webinar highlighted that perception matters, and that the perception of the bilateral relationship within Japan has improved dramatically since the 1980s. For the alliance to work, social interaction is needed. Ultimately, the US and Japan are aligned in what they want to see in a rules-based international order. In both its importance to the US-Japan alliance and to the wider international community, Yokota is poised to remain a vital piece in the Asia-Pacific security order for decades to come.