Japan closely watches Super Tuesday results for signs of things to come

Candidates' positions on security alliance, TPP raises red flags for some pundits


Staff Writer

As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stepped closer to claiming their parties’ presidential nominations on Wednesday, Japanese experts and policymakers are beginning to pay close attention to the U.S. election.

They said the choice of the next American commander in chief is important for Japan, given the overlap of security and economic interests.

On Super Tuesday, the biggest date in the primaries, Clinton won seven of 11 states and Trump did at least as well, as the front-runners padded their leads in the all-important delegate counts that determine the parties’ nominees.

To be sure, Japanese matters often do not carry much weight on the presidential campaign trail, where candidates focus more on domestic issues such as the economy. Yet recent comments by both Trump and Clinton have unnerved some experts.

Trump in December questioned the current framework of the Japan-U.S. alliance. The billionaire said the relationship is unfair because if Japan is attacked, the U.S. would “have to immediately go and start World War III. If (the U.S.) gets attacked, Japan does not have to help us.”

While it is unclear how Trump views the security situation in East Asia, his comments on Japan are “worrisome,” said Toshihiro Nakayama, professor of American Politics and Foreign Policy at Keio University.

Nakayama said Clinton’s stance toward Asia is more reassuring. As secretary of state, she was a strong advocate for a U.S. “rebalance” to Asia that emphasizes the importance of the Asia-Pacific. Moreover, she called the U.S.-Japan alliance the “cornerstone” of America’s regional engagement.

Yet both candidates say they oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Clinton once supported TPP, but following its approval — and the launch of her bid for votes — she reversed course, saying cannot support it “at this time.”

Trump has called TPP a bad trade framework. He has also accused Japan of not buying U.S. beef and wheat and of poaching jobs from Americans.

A high-ranking official at the Foreign Ministry said it is worrisome that both candidates are negative on TPP. Even though both Japan and the U.S. have denied it, the pact is widely seen as a mechanism to counter China.

“If both candidates are looking backward in the trade deal, how can the United States exert political leadership in the region?” said the official.

He added that a leadership vacuum could result in another party stepping in and laying down a new set of rules. The official stopped short of naming the country that might.

Washington and Tokyo have overcome difficult times in the past. The relationship survived so-called Japan-bashing in the 1970s and 1980s amid trade friction, and even Japan-passing, a perceived slighting when former President Bill Clinton chose not to stop over en route to China.

Some experts also fear Japan is not a priority in Washington because the White House lacks Japan hands.

Nakayama of Keio University said Tokyo has to find a path forward that keeps ties on an even keel.

“Whoever becomes president, Japan has to get along with the U.S.,” said Nakayama. “But Japan could face a very difficult situation it has never yet experienced.”

  • TV Monitor

    TPP is a goner. If Hillary wins, then Abe faces the pressure to bow down and beg for forgiveness before comfort women because Hillary declared the forced recruitment of comfort women the worst crime against women of the 20th century and vowed to make Japan apologize.

  • TV Monitor

    TPP is a goner. If Hillary wins, then Abe faces the pressure to bow down and beg for forgiveness before comfort women because Hillary declared the forced recruitment of comfort women the worst crime against women of the 20th century and vowed to make Japan apologize.

  • We in Canada feel the TPP ignores the needs and views of the common people. It’s also a deal which has little to do with freeing up international trade and rather more with imposing the will of the corporations on private citizens. Surely there are other ways of dealing with the might of China.

  • Seniors Penname

    TRUMP’s opponents are now attempting to control the voting population because they do not agree with voters’ choices. These condescending obsolete corrupt cookie-cutter career politicians and their powerful old-boy establishment handlers are wrong for today’s challenges and tomorrows solutions. These insecure Neanderthal candidates and their obsolete establishment supporters have so little faith in their own value they have resorted to school yard bullying witch-hunts of other candidates. Informed voters see right through this and these people only end up hurting their own flawed causes. Any party that is incapable of evolving with the time and voters’ wishes will become extinct.

    Powerful corrupt establishment insiders’, of every party affiliation, who discredit TRUMP, or any candidate, are also discrediting American voters’, the American voting process and the freedoms of democracies and republics everywhere. Their discrediting lies and witch-hunt smear attempts to destroy candidates and control voters must be called to account for their un-American actions. This is America! In America the peoples’ choice for their next president must always prevail. American voters’ rights and choices must always be protected, respected and never ignored or challenged. Whoever gets the most voter support gets to play in the white house. Say no more! End of story.

    America is not a dictatorship, at least not yet anyway! Voters’ choices are Americas’ choices. Americans are lucky to live in a country where they can agree to disagree. This is the essence of freedom and it must be protected. Every American and every honorable candidate must say NO when corrupt campaign strategies are used to control voters and discredit innocent candidates. Thank you, Donald Trump, and every honorable candidate, for running for President and offering informed voters choices and a path to a better America for ALL Americans! Don’t panic; lighten up; if you can’t have fun with it, have a little faith; American voters know exactly what they are doing. As the saying goes “Certainty of death, small chance of success- what are we waiting for?”

    TO DO LIST: Build another wall to keep Americans refugees out of Canada. Canada will pay for it.