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Financial Times: Washington Regrets the Shinzo Abe It Wished For

Author: David Pilling
February 21, 2014


"[Shinzo Abe] is the first leader in years with any hope of solving the festering issue of US marine bases in Okinawa. He is willing to spend more on defence after years of a self-imposed limit of 1 per cent of output. Those policies, however, come with a price tag: a revisionist nationalism that many in Washington find distasteful."

It is fairly easy to assess the relationship between Shinzo Abe's Japan and Xi Jinping's China. Neither likes the other very much. Both are using nationalism as a prop to further policy aims. Both conceivably find it useful to have a "tough man" on the other side, the better to push against.

Less easy to calibrate is the state of relations between Japan and the US. This ought to be far easier to decipher. Japan is, after all, the US's most important ally in Asia, the "unsinkable aircraft carrier" that has hosted US fighter aircraft and troops since the end of the second world war. Now, in Mr Abe, it has a leader who, after decades of American prodding, is finally willing to adopt a more robust defence posture and revisit the "freeloader" defence doctrine that pacifist Japan has long embraced. Yet having attained what it has long been after, Washington is showing signs it is getting cold feet.

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