US-Japan alliance amid changing security environment  – Asia Times

US-Japan alliance amid changing security environment  - Asia Times

The US-Japan alliance has been a cornerstone of Japan’s foreign and security policy and in the Indo-Pacific region. This alliance has persevered through several distinct hurdles since its founding in 1951 by adapting to shifting geopolitical and internal political forces.

Japan is in a vulnerable position due to its strategic location, as it faces difficulties and security threats from neighboring countries including North Korea, China and Russia. The US-Japan Security Treaty was premised on the fact that Japan provided bases and the US provided security. 

Managing regional instability in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters has left the United States overburdened in its role as a security guarantor to its allies and partners in Europe and Asia. This has made the security conundrum worse and caused allies to have second thoughts about US security promises.

A significant transformation in the US-Japan alliance occurred last year when Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited the US in January last year. Washington welcomed Tokyo’s strong reaction to the Ukraine situation and its recent security changes.

They highlight Japan’s increased resolve to fortify its defenses and support regional deterrence, as well as its newfound capacity to use the bilateral relationship to address significant threats to the “global order.”

In December 2023, Japan also hosted the US government for an Extended Deterrence Dialogue (EDD), which was founded as a forum for discussions on how to maintain and enhance extended deterrence. The two countries agreed that the Japan-US alliance’s deterrent and response capabilities must be strengthened in the face of an increasingly difficult regional security environment.

Japan’s revised National Security Strategy (NSS) document explicitly mentioned China as an unprecedented challenge and also put forth Japan’s intention of developing a counterstrike capability to attack an enemy. It further outlined Japan’s plans to increase GDP by 2%.

However, the document did not mention how Japan would carry out these objectives, how much funding it would need, or how much it would work with the US to achieve them. Encouraged by the US administration, Japan has also increased security cooperation with Australia, the United Kingdom and India. Japan’s deepening relationships with these nations shows efforts by Japan to diversify its defense partnerships further. 

Recently, a dozen warships from the US and Japan, including two US aircraft carriers, have been displaying their military prowess in the Philippine Sea, which lies east of Taiwan. According to analysts, notwithstanding the ongoing hostilities in the Middle East, the joint exercises demonstrate that the US Navy’s ability to respond to emergencies over a wide range of Asian waterways where tensions with China are still high.

It is noteworthy to note that American alliances and ties in the Indo-Pacific region are arguably at their strongest and most comprehensive points in history. Under President Joe Biden’s administration, the Japan-US alliance has been bolstered to enhance deterrence against China and North Korea. 

The United States holds a traditionally dominant position in Northeast Asia. Although Washington’s strategy in the area has always been based on the US-Japan security alliance, the two partners now collaborate and coordinate on almost every facet of their foreign and defense policies.

Alongside Australia, India and the United States, Tokyo is a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) as a democratic state with similar goals and aspirations for a “free and open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP).

In recent years, Japan has been trying to escape from the constitutional constraints due to Article 9 of its constitution to allow military operations away from Japanese shores, such as joint patrols with the US Navy and other countries in the South China Sea.

Japan also emphasizes the need to maintain stability in the Taiwan Strait, which further antagonizes China. To counter such threats, Washington and Tokyo are strengthening their intelligence sharing, and Japan is stepping up security cooperation with other partners and friends of the United States, including the Philippines, South Korea, India and Vietnam.

There has been a lot of conjecture on the level of US involvement in the conflict in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although the US does not officially recognize Ukraine as an ally, Japan and other allies are likely to view US actions and behavior as a sign of the US commitment to its partners.

Beijing hasn’t backed down from its geopolitical rivalry with Washington, both within and outside of the area. North Korea’s persistent threats of more nuclear and ballistic missile tests are also drawing US allies in Northeast Asia closer together.

It’s unknown how this new geostrategic balancing will affect the likelihood of preserving peace and stability on a worldwide scale. In any case, it is unquestionably positive news for the US, which is strengthening and growing its already strong network of partnerships and alliances.

While there is room for improvement, it’s also critical to remember that Washington cannot realistically hope to win over every nation in the Indo-Pacific region. This might also not be a good idea, because it could lead to serious strategic imbalances and instability in the area.

Having said that, the US will probably keep strengthening and enlarging its network to impede and hinder any future moves that the two revisionist nations in the area, China and North Korea, might make to threaten, subvert, or otherwise destroy the Indo-Pacific order.

To guarantee that China adheres to international law and pursues a benign foreign policy, the US-Japan alliance’s deterrence force must be combined with efforts to find a way to more meaningful engagement.

Now that Japan is a peaceful nation, the Kishida administration needs to complement its security reforms with a diplomatic plan to improve relations with its neighbors. Japan has emphasized and must continue to emphasize the significance of non-military ways to create peace to support the US-Japan alliance.