Academic journal article Strategic Forum

Unifying U.S. Policy on Japan

Academic journal article Strategic Forum

Unifying U.S. Policy on Japan

Article excerpt


* The U.S.-Japan relationship may be the most important bilateral relationship in the world.

* But the strains of acrimonious trade negotiations and troubles related to U.S. bases in Okinawa have reduced public support on both sides for a strengthened security relationship.

* So the United States must develop an integrated and coherent strategy toward Japan (1) to encourage the Japanese to assume a more responsible international security position, (2) to discourage Japan from leaving a strong American alliance, and (3) to work with America in providing leadership in the Pacific and, by extension, throughout the world.

Toward a New Joint Security Declaration

On the eve of a bilateral summit meeting, the furor over the alleged rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by American servicemen is catalyzing public scrutinty of the U.S. military forces in Japan. The U.S. government has issued high-level apologies and taken steps to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. If Japanese political leadership is reticent, the anti-U.S. base sentiment could become a larger anti-Mutual Security Treaty movement. Although U.S. Armed Forces will have to show increased awareness of their impact on local communities, the fact remains that much of the Okinawan opposition is actually aimed at the Government of Japan in Tokyo. A more basic structural issue concerns economic disputes and the need to balance and integrate economic and security interests and policies.

Barring a last-minute crisis, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Japan will issue a joint security declaration in Tokyo in November, culminating a year of diligent alliance management by American defense officials. Yet only a few months ago, U.S. trade officials had been threatening economic sanctions, because of Japan's dilatory efforts to open its markets to the outside world and lower its record trade surplus with the United States. The acrimony arising from those trade negotiations has raised three questions:

(1) Will Americans and Japanese continue to support a defense relationship despite strained trade disputes?

(2) Will Japan maintain confidence in the relationship even as leading American editorial writers and academics disparage public support for it or advocate using it as a bargaining chip to strengthen leverage in trade negotiations?

(3) Will Americans support the alliance despite Japanese reluctance to open their markets further or to risk deploying their military forces to danger zones?

During the Cold War, the U.S. government built a fire wall between trade and security issues that prevented trade disputes from interfering with the bedrock security relationship. That fire wall has disappeared, and both Democratic and Republican presidents have had trouble setting clear guidelines to balance security and economic interests.

The problem of balancing U.S. economic and security interests with Japan is far more acute and involves much higher stakes than with other nations. Japan has the second largest economy in the world. Calculated at 100 yen to the dollar, Japan's GNP last year was roughly $5 trillion to America's $7 trillion. While GNP may not be an accurate measure of the purchasing power of the Japanese people, it is a good indicator of the nation's capacity to buy things around the world. Former Ambassador Mike Mansfield's conclusion, "The U.S.-Japan relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world," has been ratified by recent de-velopments. If the two wealthiest democracies--which share many common interests in regional and global affairs--cannot align their policies, then one wonders how the international community can avoid slipping into Hobbesian anarchy. The United States must produce an integrated strategy toward Japan and devise appropriate policies and political structures to realize it.

The following discussion argues against coercive linkage and suggests a four-part plan for comprehensive management of the U. …

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