By Hirotala Kuriyama / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
Confirmation of the strengthened Japan-U.S. alliance is not a situation that provides only happiness on the Japanese side. The U.S. policy toward China is at a new stage, different from that of previous administrations. As an ally of the United States, Japan may consequently be asked to make contributions at a level different from the past.
China is rapidly catching up with the United States in terms of its military and economy, and is increasingly acting in ways that ignore international laws in the East and South China seas.
In the Interim National Security Strategy Guidance released on March 3, the Biden administration clearly stated that China is “the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system,” strongly emphasizing its recognition of the threat. The United States will also review its relationship with China on the economic front.
In contrast, the Japanese government’s perception of China as a threat is undeniably more ambiguous than that of the Biden administration. In particular, there is a gap between Japan and the United States when it comes to human rights diplomacy and economic relations with China.
Ahead of the so-called 2 plus 2 meeting between Japanese and U.S. defense and foreign ministers, the United States released a document stating it would cooperate with Japan in responding to challenges posed by China.
It is believed that Washington is trying to take the initiative with such a move. “The U.S. may grow frustrated, wondering how much longer Japan intends to adopt an ambiguous stance,” a Japanese government official said.
The Japanese and U.S. governments will discuss concrete measures to strengthen the alliance at the next 2 plus 2 meeting that could be held this year. Within the Liberal Democratic Party, there is a view that the U.S. will not be convinced by half-boiled measures. It is assumed that the installment of U.S. intermediate-range missiles in Japanese territory and the possession of capabilities to destroy ballistic missile launch bases of enemies will be up for discussion.
However, both of these issues are expected to face opposition in Japan and public opinion is likely to be divided.
Unprecedented resolve will be required to counter China under the framework of the Japan-U.S. alliance.