The transfer of power between former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to current Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga inspires many questions about the future of Japanese foreign policy and its relationship with the U.S. To answer questions of Japan’s relationship with China and its economic relationship with the U.S., Japan-America Society Dallas / Fort Worth (JASDFW) invited Dr. Michael Green, former Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council under President Bush, Aiko Lane, executive director of the U.S.-Japan Business Council at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Yoshihide Soeya, Professor of political science and international relations at Keio University for the 2021 Japan Currents Symposium on February 10.
Dr. Green introduced the topic with a discussion of Prime Minister Abe’s contribution to Japan’s relationship with China, explaining that he established the difficult balance between countering China diplomatically and cooperating with them economically. To do this, he formed closer ties with China and other countries such as India and Australia, reinterpreted the Japanese constitution to grant alliances with countries such as China if Japanese interests were under threat, built up the defense budget, and centralized Japan’s security council. Through these initiatives, Japan’s relationship with China and with the U.S. changed dramatically from that of the 1980s. Dr. Green stated that today, “we cannot handle China without Japan.”
Dr. Soeya furthered this in his conversation about combatting China in alliance with Japan. He talked about the issues of handling human rights, national security, and economic issues with China, especially considering the erosion of US primacy in the region. To address this, Soeya recommended a multilateral approach to pushing back on China’s power with Japan and other countries in the region. He called this strategy the “Middle Power Strategy,” in which the U.S. would develop regional networks, utilize Japan as a power source for cooperation, and disperse American presence across the region through Japan, South Korea, and even Australia. This, he argued, would strengthen the American presence in the region and oppose China’s through effective diplomacy with Japan and other allies.
Finally, Aiko Lane built on the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance and defined the three key business opportunities that the US should take during President Biden’s time in office. First, the U.S. must pursue stronger trade relations by renegotiating the TPP, creating a stronger bilateral trade deal than that made under Trump, and focus on the middle class and investments in Japan. Next, it should work with Japan to achieve climate sustainability. Japan is a global leader in climate friendly technologies and policies. Finally, Lane stated that Japan is “ripe for collaboration” on the digital transformation initiative, which would make both countries more adaptable to the technological world we live in today.
All three speakers offered strong recommendations for the future of the U.S.-Japan alliance. They presented a roadmap for diplomacy in order to address topics spanning from economic growth to geopolitical strategy. With minds such as theirs in international relations, the future of U.S. diplomacy is on an upward trajectory.
Watch the entire event below:
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This post was written by Saavni Desai ’23, a President’s Scholar and Tower Scholar. She is double majoring in Political Science and International Studies with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa and triple minoring in Arabic, Philosophy, and the Tower Scholars Public Policy and International Affairs minor. She also does research alongside Professor Takeuchi and is involved in Mock Trial, Indian Student Association, and the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.