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Commentary: Maintenance of Japan-U.S. alliance is still best

By Toshihiro Nakayama, Keio University professor of American politics and foreign policy


The Japan-U.S. alliance strengthened under the administrations of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama, as witnessed by the enactment of the security legislation. At present, Japan-U.S. relations are very stable, and this is also apparent in the [Yomiuri-Gallup poll] results.


Concern about the future of the relationship has spread in both Japan and the United States, however, and this is likely due to the words and deeds of Donald Trump. His suggestion that allies are “freeloading” [off their defense alliance with the United States] and his statement that he would permit Japan to possess nuclear weapons have shaken the Japan-U.S. alliance to its very foundations, and this has created an opportunity to rethink the alliance.


Unarmed neutrality and scrapping the alliance are not among Japan’s options. The best choice for Japan is the Japan-U.S. alliance, and this is because it is the alliance that makes it possible for the United States to exercise influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan is the best partner for the United States, too, and this must be emphatically communicated to the United States.


In the postwar period, the United States has created the world order alongside Japan and the U.S.’s other allies. Today, however, many Americans feel that the United States does not have the strength to support the world order and rules. There has been a rise in the percentage of Americans who are hesitant about the U.S.’s involvement in settling international disputes, and this resonates with Trump, who has advocated an “America first” policy.


Trump is taking a narrow view of U.S. interests, seeing them from the perspective of direct threats and benefits. If Trump’s statements are taken as they stand and made into foreign policy, it could mean a very major turning point where there is a transformation of the postwar international system, from which Japan has benefited.


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