Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential campaign astonished many Americans in Japan, with some fearing it could derail the long-standing bilateral alliance and others worried whether the divided nation can overcome its differences, according to a survey by The Japan Times.
Most Americans bemoaned the breakdown in public unity linked to his comments during the campaign and expressed worry about the U.S.-Japan alliance. All commented by email.
“I think this is the most disappointed I have ever been in the American electorate,” said Dan Potts, a lawyer in Tokyo who raised concerns that Trump would take advantage of “racism and misogyny.”
“In the past, I always assumed that even though many Americans voted differently than me, we were all voting for our visions for a better America; we just had genuine disagreements on how to get there,” Potts said by email. “Unfortunately, I no longer think that way.”
Trump indicated during his campaign that the United States under his presidency could curtail military support for Japan, South Korea and other allies unless they contribute more to deployment costs.
That suggestion “makes it painstakingly clear that Trump does not … understand a notoriously complex Asia-Pacific region,” said Daniel Rindner, a Japanese-American studying at Tohoku University in Sendai.
“This all-or-nothing approach to international affairs not only has irreparable consequences in the geopolitical climate surrounding our two historically good-willed countries, but also jeopardizes the stability of the region in its entirety,” Rindner said.
Trump has “demonstrated a dismissive and uninformed view of America’s complex diplomatic challenges and the importance of treating our allies with respect,” said Joshua Paul Dupuy, a professor at Temple University in Tokyo.
The president-elect “has been consistent in one area: His foreign policy initiatives are consistently incoherent and belligerent,” Dupuy said. “For Japan we are entering uncharted waters.”
Despite occasional challenges, U.S.-Japan relations were strong during President Barack Obama’s two stints in office, he said.
To strengthen the security alliance, Japan has enacted two laws that allow the Self-Defense Forces to engage in collective defense, or coming to the aid of allies under attack, a major shift in the purely self-defensive policy long adhered to under war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “is likely to continue emphasizing the importance of the alliance, while at the same time strengthening Japan’s ability to defend itself at home and abroad,” Dupuy said.
Wendy Davis, a registered Republican who lives in Tokyo, said Trump might build relations with Japanese business leaders, even as he has pledged to rewrite free trade deals with other countries, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in which Japan has a leading role alongside the U.S.
But she also said: “I think our diplomatic relations will deteriorate. Furthermore, it will destabilize the Asia region as a whole with his ‘fend for yourself’ attitude.”
Claiming victory, Trump said after the divisive campaign that Americans should “come together as one united people.” But that message does not appear to have resonated with Americans in Japan.
“Tensions seem to be at an all-time high and I believe the divisiveness will only get worse with the loser’s supporters pointing the finger when anything goes wrong,” Davis said.
“I think coming together after such a divisive election, plus such a close race, will be difficult,” Jenise Treuting, a Democrat, said.
“However,” she continued, “I hope that this will be a period of self-reflection and at the end of it all, we will be able to rebuild both parties to better reflect more popular ideas that, despite the outcome, polls show resonate with the population.”