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Japan-U.S. alliance needs freshening up

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By Michael J Green

As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kicks off her visit to Tokyo, she seems to be finding just the right pitch on Japan. In her Senate confirmation hearings in January she embraced the United States-Japan alliance as the "cornerstone" of America's Asia strategy. She struck another chord when she said she would meet with the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, reportedly overruling careerists in the State Department who fretted about Pyongyang's possible response.

These are positive steps, but the biggest challenge for Secretary Clinton will be navigating the unraveling political situation in Tokyo. Taro Aso is the third prime minister in as many years, and his rapidly waning support in the polls points to a likely victory by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in elections later this year. However, the DPJ is deeply divided, and many analysts expect that government to also collapse in short order. It could take months, or even years, for stability to return.

In the meantime, there is a danger that Washington may lose its initial focus on the strategic importance of the alliance as a series of ministers rotates through the Japanese cabinet. So it is important to launch an agenda now that builds on our shared interests and values and that will endure regardless of political developments in Japan.

First, the U.S. and Japan should forge a new partnership on climate change. Most of President Barack Obama's energy experts are fixated on a strategic partnership with Beijing, and China certainly is the most difficult outlier in the global debate on climate. But that is precisely why the U.S. and Japan, as the world's two largest economies, should lead in setting standards on a market-based cap-and-trade system and technology cooperation that can be used to build a broader consensus in Asia that helps to draw in China.

Second, the U.S. should be more willing to cooperate with Japan on defense and space programs. Tokyo is eager to procure fifth-generation American fighter aircraft and wants to collaborate on satellites and launch vehicles. But officials in Washington, excessively nervous about the possible diplomatic and security consequences of such sales, have been stonewalling for more than a year on both fronts. Given the growing North Korean missile threat and the rapid expansion of China's People's Liberation Army Air Force, this is no time to pull back on defense cooperation.

Third, the two countries should revitalize the subcabinet-level economic dialogue begun in 2001 to encourage Japan to take action on regulatory reform, disposal of nonperforming loans and deflation. But this time, the U.S. side also needs to listen to Japan, particularly on deflation. Both sides still have much to do, but Tokyo has been far more proactive than Washington about returning liquidity to the economy by purchasing stocks and buying back regular and inflation-adjusted bonds.

Finally, the U.S. should pick up on one of Mr Aso's better ideas: the promotion of an "arc of freedom and prosperity" across Asia. At a time when weak states need stronger institutions and Chinese economic assistance is increasingly undermining good governance in the developing world, the U.S. and Japan should be at the center of a new development alliance that helps states strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law.

In Japan there is frequent concern that Democratic administrations in Washington become too protectionist, too close to China and too accommodating to North Korea. Secretary Clinton has gone a long way toward dispelling those misgivings. Now both sides must craft a strategic agenda that reflects both countries' core interests and ensures that Washington's attention does not drift in the face of domestic turmoil in Japan.

The writer is senior adviser and Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and associate professor at Georgetown University.

© Reprinted with permission from the Wall Street Journal Asia

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

11 Comments
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This is one of the worst articles on the US-Japan relationship I have ever seen.

Moderator: How about explaining why you think so?

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There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. The cost of fuel effects every facet of consumer goods from production to shipping costs. After a brief reprieve gas is inching back up. OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. There is a really good new book out by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now. http://www.themanhattanprojectof2009.com

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Arc of freedom and prosperity across Asia ?? This is one of PM Aso's better ideas? Mr. Green at Georgetown, you're making me blue. Please tell me that you are kidding.

First of all, Japanese 'leaders', especially those whose families profited from the Japan's war across Asia, should never use the words 'prosperity' and 'Asia' in the same sentence ... very foolish.

Secondly, Japan's arc of prosperity IN JAPAN is drooping significantly ... and may in fact collapse unless there is soon a change in leadership and political/economic direction.

These guys should really concentrate on the homeland before they start making plans for the whole of Asia.

Regarding Secretary Clinton's visit, she is merely a 'face'. She has the power to do nothing to right the listing ship that is Japan at the current moment. She will be here and gone and absolutely nothing will change for the better in 2009 ... so why all the hype surrounding her arrival in Tokyo?

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TokyoHus: "This is one of the worst articles on the US-Japan relationship I have ever seen."

Looking foward to seeing a vastly superior article on the U.S.-Japan relationship by TokyoHus.

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Ive never really liked how close japan is with america.. ive never liked how close australia is either. Well to be honest ive never really liked any country i love close to america... i should say that with the new leadership and all, but while i feel ( this is just me so nobody get angry over me saying it.. ) i cant trust obama just yet, my hesitation regarding being close to america will stay.

These guys should really concentrate on the homeland before they start making plans for the whole of Asia.

I agree.

America’s Asia strategy

can anybody tell me what that is? because... i hope america, and im not saying they are or will, are planning to 'use' japan, its just the way its sounding, BUT im not going to jump to conclusions :) so can anybody explain? or has a clearer view on the strategy?

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I think everyone needs a little freshening up, both the US and Japan are up to their eyeballs in debt and need to work out a few consecutive miracles to pull themselves and the world economy out of the gutter.

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Japan-U.S. alliance needs freshening up

I suggest 'Wintergreen'.

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I have long thought the relationship was destined for the le bidet.

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Finally, the U.S. should pick up on one of Mr Aso’s better ideas: the promotion of an “arc of freedom and prosperity” across Asia.

Rather than calling it an "arc of freedom and prosperity," why not call it the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere? Oh, wait, that's already been done.

As a scholar, Mr. Green should be more sensitive to the historical context, and the emotional impact, of the particular words chosen to describe something.

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How about explaining why you think so?

Sure.

Read it and see.

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Japan-U.S. alliance needs freshening up

Indeed, there is no need for the USA to use Japan as an obstacle against the "Communist threat".

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