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Expert: Japan needs to closely monitor change in U.S. policy toward China

Ichiro Fujisaki

By Ichiro Fujisaki, former Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. and current president of the Nakasone Peace Institute


The fact that many Japanese people responded [in the Yomiuri-Gallup public opinion poll] that the Japan-U.S. relationship will improve under the incoming U.S. administration led by President-elect Joe Biden stems from their strong desire for the U.S. to show leadership under the banner of “international cooperation.” Japan values the United Nations and other international organizations and expects the U.S. to return to the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization (WHO).


The Japanese do not extend to President Donald Trump the kind of respect as they have offered past U.S. presidents. At the same time, though, there is little ill feeling toward him compared to that felt in other countries. I think that is largely attributable to Trump’s honeymoon relationship with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his harsh stance on China.


Pollees’ assessment of their nation’s relationship with China marked its lowest level ever in both countries. Not only Japan and the U.S. but many other nations are also calling on China to change. U.S. foreign policy swings like a pendulum every time the president changes. In that sense, it is commendable that Biden confirmed from the outset during his first teleconference with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty will be applied to the Senkaku Islands.


The Biden administration, however, may soften the U.S.’s tough stance on China or try to create a “democratic nations vs. China” framework. Japan needs to be prepared for both scenarios.

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