Will the US-Japan Alliance Survive?

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the US-Japan Security Treaty, a central feature of stability in East Asia for half a century. But now, with the Japanese experiencing domestic political uncertainty, and North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches increasing their anxiety, will Japan reverse its long-standing decision not to seek its own nuclear-deterrent capability?

CAMBRIDGE – Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the United States-Japan Security Treaty, a central feature of stability in East Asia for half a century. But now, with the Japanese experiencing a period of domestic political uncertainty, and North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches increasing their anxiety, will Japan reverse its long-standing decision not to seek a national nuclear-deterrent capability? Is the US-Japan alliance coming to an end? 

In the early 1990’s, many Americans regarded Japan as an economic threat. Some people – in both countries – viewed the security alliance as a Cold War relic to be discarded.

These trends were reversed by the Clinton administration’s 1995 “East Asia Strategy Report.” In 1996, the Clinton-Hashimoto Declaration stated that the US-Japan security alliance was the foundation for stability that would allow growing prosperity in post-Cold War East Asia. That approach has continued on a bipartisan basis in the US, and polls show that it retains broad acceptance in Japan. Most close observers of the relationship agree that the US-Japan alliance is in much better shape today than 15 years ago.

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