Uncertainties Linger in US-Japan Relations

CGTN, February 11, 2017 | 作者: Su Xiaohui | 时间: 2017-02-13 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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Shortly after US Defense Secretary James Mattis wrapped up a visit to Japan, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe started his trip to the US. Some Western media characterized the trip as “a worried Japan seeks Trump's assurances.”

Fortunately, Japan has reached agreement with the US on strengthening the alliance. In the joint statement released after the first official meeting between the leaders since Trump's inauguration, both sides reaffirmed that “the unshakable US-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the Asia-Pacific region” and the US made the promise to defend Japan through the full range of US military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional.

The two countries also decided to utilize the Security Consultative Committee (SCC: “2+2”) involving foreign and defense ministers to promote security cooperation and enhance the alliance.

What may be more important to Shinzo Abe was the confirmation that Article V of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security covers the disputed Diaoyu Islands, which Beijing claims sovereignty of. Japan and the US also talked about the developments in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, indicating their concerns on China’s increasing capacity and actions.

However, the US-Japan alliance still faces uncertainties. During the press conference after the official meeting, President Trump made no mention of his demands for Japan to pay the US more for its security guarantees and the presence on Japanese soil of thousands of US troops. It probably indicated that both sides put aside the problem, instead of finding a solution. In the future, it is likely that Trump sticks to the principle of “America First” and asks Japan to shoulder more responsibility for the alliance.

Domestically, Abe is facing skepticism. Senior business leaders, former diplomats and government advisers, as well as national security experts warned that the prime minister’s attempts to forge a close relationship with the US president carried risks for Japan’s international reputation and its own security.

As for economic ties, Trump did not repeat his prior criticism of Japanese trade practices. And Abe emphasized the “mutually beneficial economic relations” of the two countries and Japan’s contribution to the development of the US.

Abe specifically talked about plans to invest more than 150 billion US dollars in US infrastructure and the number of jobs created by Japanese businesses. Both countries also plan to further deepen bilateral economic relations by holding a cross-sectoral dialogue involving Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and US Vice President Mike Pence. 

With strong voices from various sectors in the US asking Donald Trump to put pressure on Japan to defend their interests, fears have emerged that Japan could be plagued once again by trade friction with the United States.

Obviously, Japan is expecting a smooth relationship with the US, and Shinzo Abe is looking forward to building up a private relationship with Donald Trump. Japan will continue to seek a larger role for the US-Japan alliance in political, economic and security affairs in Asia-Pacific.


Su Xiaohui is Deputy Director, Department for International and Strategic Studies of China Institute of International Studies.



Source: CGTN, February 11, 2017.