Japan's new era of alternating parties in power has deep implications for the U.S.-Japan alliance, argues Sheila A.Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies and director of the Japan studies program, in a new CFR report. Japan's New Politics and the U.S.-Japan Alliance, explores the challenges facing U.S. policymakers as they seek to work with changing Japanese governments. The struggles of alliance management should not be attributed solely to one party,Smith writes, but rather to the complex identity debates currently reshaping the Asia-Pacific region and challenging the postwar order.
This publication would not have been possible without the generous support provided by the U.S.-Japan Foundation and by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.
Japan Program Events
The United States and Japan in Asia
On April 28, the Japan program hosted the second in a series of annual seminars in honor of Tadashi Yamamoto, founder and longtime president of the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE). The first panel featured regional perspectives on Japan's relations with its Northeast Asian neighbors. Sheila A. Smith, Council on Foreign Relations; Lee Shin-wha, Korea University; Hitoshi Tanaka, Japan Research Institute and JCIE; and Zhu Feng, Peking University, discussed tensions over history and territory issues, as well as the role the United States could play in finding a peaceful resolution to these disputes.
J. Thomas Schieffer, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, presided over the second panel on competing visions of the future of East Asia. Bilahari Kausikan, former permanent secretary, Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Roderick MacFarquhar, Harvard University; and Masashi Nishihara, Research Institute for Peace and Security, shared their views on how the rise of China and U.S. rebalance to Asia will shape the region, including perceptions of Japan's role.
In the day's final panel, four members from the Japanese Diet—Motohisa Furukawa (DPJ), Naoki Kazama (DPJ), Kenji Kosaka (LDP), and Yasuhisa Shiozaki (LDP)—joined Gerald L. Curtis, Columbia University, for a discussion on the domestic political dynamics of Japan's Asia policy. Although panelists disagreed about whether the strategy adopted by the Shinzo Abe cabinet would be successful, there was a general consensus about Japan's foreign policy objectuives, especially the need to strengthen relations with its Asian neighbors.
Japan's New Politics and the U.S.-Japan Alliance
In a new CFR report, Japan's New Politics and the U.S.-Japan Alliance, Sheila A.Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies and director of the Japan studies program,argues that though partisan divisions within Tokyo remain a hurdle to predictable alliance management, none to date have challenged the fundamental premises of the alliance. The end of single-party dominance and transfer of power from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and back to the LDP may have introduced new complications for alliance managers, but even Japan's reformers have not turned away from the U.S.-Japan alliance. The United States is used to adjusting to changing parties in power in its other alliances, and alternations in government in Japan have helped to open up the policymaking process to greater scrutiny and public evaluation. The real challenge is not Japan's new politics, but rather the increasingly complex strategic environment in Northeast Asia. China's rise and North Korea's nuclear and missile proliferation have raised new questions for the alliance, and Tokyo and Washington will need to address their different perceptions of risk and priorities for strategic cooperation.
This report is made possible by grants from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the U.S.-Japan Foundation.
Upcoming CFR Book
Smith's new book, Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China, will be published in January 2015 from Columbia University Press. Through intricate case studies of visits by politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine, conflicts at the East China Sea boundary, concerns about food safety, and strategies of island defense, Smith explores the policy issues testing the Japanese government as it tries to navigate its relationship with an advancing China. Smith scrutinizes the role of the Japanese government in coping with contention as China's influence grows and Japanese citizens demand more protection. Underlying the government's efforts is Japan's insecurity about its own capacities for change and its waning status as the leading Asian economy. For many, China's rise means Japan's decline, and Smith suggests how Japan can maintain its regional and global clout as confidence in its postwar diplomatic and security approach decreases. The book is available for pre-order now from Columbia University Press and Amazon.
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