The Japanese government regards the Japan-U.S. alliance as the “cornerstone of its foreign and security policies,” (in the words of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe). It will continue to seek the strengthening of the alliance relationship with the Trump administration. So far, Trump has been making perplexing statements, such as his demand for Japan to increase its share of the cost of stationing U.S. forces. The government will do a meticulous analysis of Trump’s inauguration speech in order to gauge the optimum distance with him.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga emphasized at his news conference on Jan. 20 that the Japan-U.S. alliance “plays an extremely important role for peace and prosperity in Asia and the Pacific.” He said that “we will also consolidate the bilateral alliance with the Trump administration and further strengthen our existing bonds,” indicating Japan’s desire to strengthen the alliance.
In addition to increasing the contribution to the cost of U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ), Trump has also taken issue with the trade deficit with Japan. While it is said that he is still fixated with a view of Japan from the 1980s, when there was intense Japan-U.S. trade friction, there is also an opinion that these remarks were meant to put pressure on Japan in anticipation of future negotiations.
The Japanese government’s position is that it will be difficult to further increase Japan’s share of the cost of the USFJ because “Japan’s financial share is greater than other U.S. allies’ contributions,” according to a government source. It intends to prod Trump to “change tack” by offering a meticulous explanation of the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Okinawa Affairs Minister Yosuke Tsuruho stated at a news conference held after the cabinet meeting on Jan. 20: “I hope that Mr. Trump and other administration officials will engage in more detailed discussions from now on,” indicating his hope that Trump will shift to a “realistic line” after assuming office.
However, it is widely believed that Trump will continue to make radical, unpredictable statements in the future. Japanese government officials reckon that “the Trump administration’s policies will only take shape after the working-level officials are appointed, so there is no point in reacting anxiously to everything he says right now.”