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The Future of the U.S.-Japan Alliance

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The United States and Japan commemorated the 50th anniversary of their security alliance last month with an uneasy sense of ambivalence. On the one hand, the sheer fact that the alliance, firmly rooted in the common interests and shared values of both countries, has persisted for so long is reason enough to celebrate. The U.S. and Japan, in addition to being democracies, are the world's top two economies and two of the largest funders of multilateral institutions. They share a long list of common objectives, from ensuring that China's rise is peaceful and deterring a nuclear North Korea to policing global sea lanes and addressing issues like climate change and human rights.

The alliance is also vital for both countries, albeit for different reasons. For Japan, the alliance has been essential to its security posture, since no other Japanese ally is committed to defending the island country in the event of an armed attack. For the United States, it has provided a means to maintain U.S. forward bases in Japan, both to deter wider regional crises and for operational use in the event that one does arise. The alliance has also allowed the U.S. to maintain a close relationship with a country not only at the heart of Asian security issues, but one that has also made significant contributions to global security, from reconstruction in Afghanistan to aid during the 2004 Asian tsunami to anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. ...

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