In their talks Feb. 21, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney reaffirmed the "unwavering" Japan-U.S. security alliance. This raises a question: Why did Abe have to reaffirm an alliance that is said to have already benefited from the long honeymoon between former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush?

The United States, troubled by the Iraq quagmire and a new crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions, needs to strengthen its alliance with Japan and Australia in the Asia-Pacific region.

For Japan, a strong U.S. commitment to the alliance is essential as the nation deals with a changing Asian landscape, especially North Korea's nuclear-arms and missile development, China's military and economic expansion, and uncertainties in Southeast Asia.