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Time for Leadership for the U.S.-Japan Relationship

Author: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
PacNet #35
Center for Strategic and International Studies


In their first meeting in late June, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Kan Naoto set a positive tone for the US-Japan alliance. Coming off a difficult interlude in the bilateral relationship, there was reason to be reassured as to the commitment of our two countries' leaders to working together. Since then, Japan's Upper House election has raised questions about Kan's staying power and produced some desultory commentary on the prospects for alliance policymaking.

The intensely fluctuating sentiments regarding politics in Tokyo raise questions about how to sustain US-Japan alliance cooperation. Politically, we are in new territory; we are not in uncharted territory when thinking of how to find common ground for the US-Japan alliance agenda.

The foundation of this relationship remains our core strategic bargain: a relationship of security cooperation that dates over half a century, cooperation that reassures our publics and grounds our diplomacy in Asia. Nowhere in Japan do we hear calls for ending that relationship. Likewise, nowhere in Washington today do I hear calls for abandoning Japan as an ally. Our governments work together every day on issues where reaching out to find ideas and expertise has become second nature.

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