Interpretation of the Policy
If the independence of the United States of America is to be maintained it cannot be at the beck and call of foreign behest. So inasmuch as Japan seems to be reawakening from its pacificist slumber the US stands not to lose a compliant confederate but gain a more capable ally (4). The American First policy demands that the burden for regional stability be shifted then to key players with a history of allegiance to US interests. Although originally by coercion Japan has proven to be a reliable agent voluntarily whilst declaring its desire for further responsibilities (3).
Japan and the US collaborate through a wide range of world affairs not limited: to foreign aid, health, ecological management, and human rights (2). Japan has proven to be a dedicated partner in the fields of cognitive medicine, gerontology, disease control, custom pharmacology, energy tech, supercomputing, and space exploration (2).
Economically, the Japanese market for American goods and services is matched only by its mirrored counterpart. The Japanese import our “agricultural products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, films and music, commercial aircraft, nonferrous metals, plastics, medical and scientific supplies, and machinery” while we enjoy their “vehicles, machinery, optic and medical instruments, and organic chemicals” (2).
As it has been stated in previous documents and by multiple agencies, Japan remains one of our most critical points of support in East Asia. From the state department:
“The U.S.-Japan Alliance is the cornerstone of U.S. security interests in Asia and is fundamental to regional stability and prosperity. The Alliance is based on shared vital interests and values, including: the maintenance of stability in the Indo-Pacific region: the preservation and promotion of political and economic freedoms; support for human rights and democratic institutions; and, the expansion of prosperity for the people of both countries and the international community as a whole”(2).
This has been proven time and after time in the halls of “the United Nations, G7, G-20, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, ASEAN Regional Forum, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization” where Japan has voted loyally in our support (2). Additionally, they are active in a variety of American-led trilaterals and miliary cooperatives whose membership include Korea, Australia, and India (2). Such duty was rewarded in December 2016, when nearly 10,000 acres of Northern Training Area was returned reducing our holdings in Okinawa by almost 20 percent (2).
A Japanese diplomat was famously quoted as saying, “Over the past ten years, we have had three serious national-security concerns: The first is China; the second is China; the third is China” (4). As a result, multiple parties and organizations have proposed (unsuccessfully) to rewrite the constitution the US wrote for them (7). This would result in the legalization of policies already being pursued in building up Japan’s “Self-Defence Forces” which on paper aren’t an offensive military (4). Regardless of any additional budgeting, the cost for Japan as a buffer zone between China and the US is in its (and our) favor. As Greer said in his analysis of Taiwan, “Costs favor the defense: It is much cheaper to build a ship-killing missile than it is to build a ship” (1).
Should Japan continue to pursue increasing militarization (be it through constitutional or extraconstitutional means) it is recommended that the United States either silently support or in no way impede the transition (4). The advantages of a rearmed Japan far outweigh the risks of the return of Imperial ambition. Should Japan overstep the American interests resources should be allocated to the direct opposition of Shinzo Abe’s party and/or their South Korean rivals (5; 6). The threat of domestic unrest or close quarters flare-ups with Korea remains the best deterrence available to counteract a Japan entrusted with holding back China (7). Yet before that trust can be broken, it must first be extended.
- Greer, Tanner. "Taiwan Can Win a War With China." Foreign Policy. September 25, 2018. Accessed April 19, 2019. https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/09/25/taiwan-can-win-a-war-with-china/.
- "Japan." U.S. Department of State. July 17, 2018. Accessed April 19, 2019. https://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/4142.htm.
- "Japan's Postwar Constitution." Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed April 19, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/interactive/japan-constitution/japans-postwar-constitution.
- "Japan's Self-Defence Forces Are Beginning to Focus on China." The Economist. April 17, 2019. Accessed April 18, 2019. https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/04/20/japans-self-defence-forces-are-beginning-to-focus-on-china.
- Kyodo, Jiji. "Opposition Says LDP Prioritized 'partisan Interests' with Increase of Upper House Seats." The Japan Times. Accessed April 20, 2019. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/07/19/national/politics-diplomacy/opposition-says-ldp-prioritized-partisan-interests-increase-upper-house-seats/#.XL1eiOhKhPY.
- "South Korea's Ties with China, Japan, and the U.S.: Defining a New Role in a Dangerous Neighborhood." Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed April 20, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/south-koreas-ties-china-japan-and-us-defining-new-role-dangerous-neighborhood.
- "The Politics of Revising Japan's Constitution." Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed April 20, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/interactive/japan-constitution/politics-of-revision.
- "US Wants Japan, South Korea to Tag Team China. History's in the Way." South China Morning Post. January 12, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2019. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/article/2181758/us-wants-japan-and-south-korea-tag-team-china-history-way.