Analysis & Opinions - The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs

How Trump Can Strengthen the U.S.-Japan Alliance

| Feb. 17, 2017

Last week’s meeting between President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe went surprisingly well, but if this summit is the baseline test of Mr. Trump’s capacity to handle foreign policy and national security challenges, then the bar may be set too low, because rising tensions in East Asia will almost surely test the administration in the future.

Over the course of a three-day summit between the leaders of Japan and the U.S. from Feb. 10 to 12, Mr. Trump took multiple opportunities to reaffirm that the U.S.-Japan alliance is strong, saying the alliance remains “the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Pacific region” and making clear that “the United States of America is behind Japan … 100 percent.” While Mr. Trump’s comments on the campaign trail last year had caused great consternation in Japan and South Korea, his latest public rhetoric, which hews closely to comments Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis recently made while in Japan, is reassuring in that it brings this White House in line with the past seven decades of American leadership in strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Still, the North Korean missile test over the weekend is a stark reminder that attitudes and platitudes alone will not be enough for this new administration to succeed, especially as China also becomes increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea. If North Korea or China actually presented Japan with the threat or use of force, how would Mr. Trump handle that moment of real crisis?

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For Academic Citation: Ladha, Rizwan.“How Trump Can Strengthen the U.S.-Japan Alliance.” The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, February 17, 2017.

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