Anzhi main threat to Japan’s security. After the

Anzhi
Jiang

International
Relations of Northeast Asia

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Jan
16, 2018

The U.S.-Japan Relations: A U.S.

Perspective

Introduction

The U.S.-Japan relationship since the end
of World War II has been intimate and complex. The formal structure supporting
the relationship has been the US-Japan security alliance, however, the
bilateral relationship encompasses no only the military alliance but also close
and complex economic and political ties. Since the US is a military and
political superpower with both military and economic advantages over Japan, the
asymmetry between the two nations caused the abnormal status of the US-Japan
relations, and as a result, it is recognized as a one-sided relation.

The world changed a lot since the late 20th
century. During the Cold War era, the former Soviet Union had been the main
threat to Japan’s security. After the collapse of the USSR, instead, other
potential danger spots in Southeast Asia, events on the Korean peninsula, and
even China, Japan’s largest neighboring country. A series of provocation by
North Korea and increasingly aggressive maritime operations by China since 2010
appeared to have set the relationship back on course. Also, changing policies
due to unstable leadership eg. The electing of Trump also slowed some bilateral
security initiatives.

This paper will introduce and discuss the
1) goals, 2) means, 3) policy contents and priorities, 4) implementation and evaluation,
and 5) implications of the US’s policies and strategies toward Japan. In my
opinion, both the United States and Japan face constraints on their ability to
enhance the alliance and they will need new strategies in finding a new guiding
rationale in shaping the environment for China’s rise.

 

History

On August 6 and
August 9, 1945, the United States dropped nuclear weapons on the Japanese
cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombings, which killed at least
129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

After the surrender of Japan shortly after the atomic bomb, WWII was finally
over, which was followed by the American occupation of Japan and the
marginalization of the military. The US-Japan relationship today is basically
formed at that time, when the United States established a significant presence
in Japan to slow the expansion of Soviet influence in the Pacific after World
War II. The United States was also concerned with the growth of the economy of
Japan because there was a risk after World War II that an unhappy and poor
Japanese population would turn to communism and by doing so ensure that the
Soviet Union would control the Pacific. By the late 1960s, Japan had risen from
the ashes of World War II to achieve an astoundingly rapid and complete
economic recovery.

After World War II ended, the Japanese Empire dissolved
and became a democracy state with leading of the US. Japan was banned to have
military forces and types and numbers of weapons were also limited. Nowadays
Japan is still one of the most important allies of the United States in Asia
and the 3,000 cherry blossom trees in Washington DC is the symbol of friendship
between the two countries.

 

 

Goals

           
The United States has struggled for a century to define and redefine its
strategic relationship with China and Japan. From the beginning of the
twentieth century until the latter part of the Cold War in the 1970s, the
United States never simultaneously had good relations with China and Japan. As
the 21st century begins, the US again faces strategic choices in Asia. Now
China is the ”rising” power, therefore the U.S.-Japan alliance remains as
strong as ever, indeed perhaps even stronger. Russia cannot be counted out, but
it is now a weakened regional player, despite its continuing arms sales to
North Korea and China. And since the Trump administration seems to be more
economically oriented, opening markets in Japan will still be an important goal
for the US.

 

Means

For eight years, President Obama’s foreign
policy doctrine has been rooted in a belief of multilateralism, while President
Trump has promoted the “America First” agenda and shifted his focus to
bilateralism. Economically, Trump’s protectionist policies, such as the border
tax and U.S. withdrawal from the TPP, may have significant implications for
major powers including Japan. Politically, US’s traditional allies in Asia
including Japan and South Korea are still playing important roles on the
region’s security and stability. On the other hand, the several missile tests
launched by North Korea became an opportunity for the US to export its weapons
to Japan and Korea, eg. The THAAD system.

 

Policies
and Priorities

Since the rising of China, most countries
in the Asia-Pacific region followed the option of trying to integrate China
into existing and new regional and global institutions such as the RCEP, or
ASEAN plus. The US under Trump administration has been explicitly rebalancing
its international posture toward Asia and China. The US-Japan alliance is
becoming less important than before, given the fact that this bilateral
relation depends heavily on the Sino-US relations and the instability of the
Korean peninsula.

Until the end of the Cold War, China
valued the U.S.-Japan security alliance’s role as a counter to Soviet influence
in East Asia. It also appreciated the alliance’s role in capping Japanese
military options and ambitions. Even after the end of the Cold War in the early
1990s, China was concerned that U.S.-Japan trade tensions and American troop
pull-downs from Asia might impair the U.S.-Japan security alliance and open long-closed
security debates and options within Japan. On the other hand, Japan was also
greatly concerned about America’s alliance fidelity during President Bill Clinton’s
first administration because of the lack of a U.S. strategic focus and,
especially, the emphasis on trade-deficit reduction. From 1995, the Japanese were
gradually reassured with the Nye Initiative and the U.S.-Japan Defense
Guidelines review. However, since the United States and Japan acted to
strengthen their alliance, China has warned that Japan’s expanded role could be
the first step toward Japanese remilitarization, and it has expressed concerns
about an increasingly independent Japan.1

However, there is currently no prospect
of China and the US becoming strategic allies, but in contrast, Japan is a key
American security and political ally in Asia, and in addition, Japan
contributes about $5 billion annually to underwrite the cost of maintaining
U.S. forces there. On the other hand, unlike China, Japan shares core
democratic values and institutions with the United States. As a result, it
is still important for the US to maintain the US-Japan alliance while facing
the challenge of a rising China.

 

Implementation
and evaluation

           

 

Implications

Trump’s bilateral approach to foreign
relations might lead to decreasing influence of the US in Asia. Though after
withdrawing from the TPP, the renewed CPTPP negotiations went on promptly, the
ASEAN-China leading RCEP, and the One Belt One Road Initiative launched by
China seemed to declare a new era of globalization, without the US
participation. And all the dramas between Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un also led
to a concern of a less stable security environment in Asia. On the other hand,
the instability of the Korean peninsula might also lead to the normalization or
even re-militarization of Japan, which the US and the rest of the world won’t
be happy to see.

Given the fact that China has made clear
that it now prefers a ”hollowed out” U.S.-Japan security alliance2
and has pressured Japan on the guidelines but has gone relatively easy on the
United States. Japan, as the weaker alliance partner, has sidestepped China’s
pressure tactics. But this unpleasant experience has enhanced the strong
Japanese trend toward a more hard-nosed and wary approach to China. The Japanese
have concluded that China is now the most important and unpredictable geopolitical
variable in Asia’s future. American policymakers and others need to consider
the policy implications of new trends in China-Japan relations for the United
States.

 

Conclusion

In
the near future, the present security relationship will continue witj no doubt,
perhaps with Japan taking a more active role in its own defense, but not
militarization. As China starts to take on a larger and larger role in regional
and global affairs, the United States will also have to modify its relations
with China, Japan, and Asia. I will make the following suggestions for the
future of the US-Japan relations:

1.    
The United States cannot afford to become isolationist. It must balance the
reduction of U.S. forces in Japan and Asia with an increased diplomatic and
economic presence.

2.    
While the United States should continue to support Japan’s development of a UN
peacekeeping role for Japanese troops, it should make it clear that a
“remilitarized” Japan is not in the best interests of either Japan or Asia.

3.    
To continue to play an effective role in Asia, the US government must gain a
deeper understanding of Asian politics, economics, and culture. In order to
maintain the respect of its allies, it will be necessary to move toward an
equal political relationship.

 

Reference:

1.     Neil E. Silver, The United States, Japan
and China: Setting the Course (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press,
2000)

2.      

 

1 Neil E. Silver, The United States, Japan
and China: Setting the Course (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press,
2000)

1.     2 Neil E. Silver, The United States, Japan
and China: Setting the Course (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press,
2000)