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Global Insights: Japan Doubles Down on U.S. Alliance

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The triple catastrophe represented by Japan's March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency has thus far had two main effects on Japan's national security policies. First, the crisis has focused the attention of Japanese security managers inward toward domestic humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. Second, it has reinforced the Japanese-U.S. alliance, which had already been strengthened by the Japanese government's decision to abandon its earlier quest for a more independent security policy in light of increased external threats from the East Asian mainland. Given this increased salience of external threats, Japan's earthquake-induced domestic preoccupation may prove to be of short duration.

Japan has long faced threats from Russia, China and North Korea, but they have become more serious in recent years. Japan's territorial disputes with Russia and China over contested islands have been the focus of attention in the past year. The conflicting claims with Russia over the Northern Territories, which the Russians call the Southern Kuriles, are not an immediate security threat, as Japan lacks the military power to force Russia to relinquish the islands. But the dispute prevents Tokyo and Moscow from collaborating closely on regional security issues and impedes economic cooperation between their two complementary economies. ...

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