The following paper is part of the Brookings Order from Chaos series Alliances & partnerships: U.S. commitments in the Asia-Pacific, in which contributing scholars offer their analyses of the various U.S. alliances and security partnerships, along with the diverse economic, diplomatic, and security challenges that impact those critical commitments.
The regime of Kim Jong Un in North Korea has continued with its aggressive pursuit of a nuclear weapons program and in January announced it had tested a hydrogen bomb. Meanwhile, the Chinese government stepped up its incursions around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and has recently announced its intentions to send nuclear armed submarines into the Pacific Ocean for the first time. These developments clearly illustrate the high level of tension that increasingly defines Japan’s security environment and affirm the essential nature of the U.S.-Japan alliance and its indispensable role in maintaining stability in Northeast Asia.
Established in the aftermath of World War II, the U.S.-Japan alliance has proven to be a remarkably resilient security partnership and the cornerstone of stability for the region. Threats in Northeast Asia will most likely continue to diversify for the near future, and therefore the relevance of the U.S.-Japan alliance will only increase in maintaining regional stability as well as addressing the rise of China and the provocations of North Korea.
At a time when one of America’s closest allies is facing a variety of threats, some of which are existential, there are few things more damaging than fostering ambiguity about U.S. commitments to the maintenance of security and stability in the Asia Pacific. Fiscal and political constraints will undoubtedly influence future relations between both countries, but these inescapable forces should not hinder Washington’s ability to assure Japan that its security, as well as the security of its neighbors, is deep-seated in U.S. grand strategy and the balance of power in the region.