Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

"Trump’s America” and Japan
TOMODA Seki / Former Director General, Japan Institute of International Affairs

December 9, 2016
The emergence of “Donald Trump’s America” forebodes the possibility that relationships between the United States and its allies, including Japan, will undergo considerable qualitative changes. The remarks on US alliances that Donald Trump made over the course of his presidential campaign have greatly diminished the sense of trust that many allies held toward the United States.

Regarding the Japan-US alliance, Trump has claimed that Japan is getting a one-sided free ride and even hinted at withdrawing US troops from Japan, to the astonishment of many Japanese. The true nature of the Japan-US Security Treaty—the military cornerstone of the bilateral alliance—is that Japan provides the United States with a rear base as the United States endeavors to maintain a powerful military presence in the Far East and western Pacific, while in turn the United States bears the obligation of defense cooperation with Japan including protection under its “nuclear umbrella.” Moreover, far from enjoying a free ride, Japan shoulders roughly 75% of the costs of stationing US troops in Japan.

Trump’s slighting of America’s alliances will certainly give momentum to domestic arguments for independent defense and military buildup. On a Japanese TV show that was aired soon after his election, a highly respected right-wing political analyst and a leader of the left-wing Japanese Communist Party both stressed the need to reinforce Japan’s capacity to defend itself independently. It was a moment that seemed to suggest the direction in which Japan’s public opinion is headed.

A country that must have been more deeply shocked than Japan by Trump’s attitude toward US alliances is South Korea, which faces the military threat of North Korea daily. With US commitment to its defense now in doubt, South Korea may very well move toward rethinking its foreign policy and security framework from the ground up. Under the circumstances, its once-active initiatives to establish closer ties with China could resurface.

Looking at things from the broader perspective of the international situation in general, I suspect that China and Russia will accelerate their efforts to bring down the post–World War II international order led by the United States, taking the latter’s transformation as an opportunity. The fact that the United States is veering toward introversion—protectionism in trade and isolationism in foreign policy—offers the two countries the perfect environment for realizing this strategic goal.

Especially with regard to China, America’s inward-looking attitude may prompt it to further intensify its efforts to seek maritime hegemony in the South China Sea and East China Sea. There is a concern that Southeast Asian countries, unsettled by the introversion of “Trump’s America,” will diminish their resistance to such moves on China’s part. Meanwhile, Trump’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership now threatens its entry into force. China, which was left out of the trade pact, will likely seize this opportunity and redouble its efforts to build its own economic bloc by means of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Belt and Road strategy aimed at connecting Asia and Europe, as well as to establish a China-led sphere of influence, such as through the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank.

How should Japan brace itself for these expected developments? Above all, it is vital that Japan use every means necessary to keep Trump’s America from plunging down the road of protectionism and isolationism on the economic and diplomatic fronts. Needless to say, we must also bring the United States to reaffirm the value and importance of alliances, including between Japan and the United States, that go beyond simple economic interests.

Tomoda Seki is Former Director General of the Japan Institute of International Affairs.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

友田 錫 / 元日本国際問題研究所所長

2016年 12月 9日







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟