HONOLULU — Nuclear strategy has become a core concern in the U.S.-Japan alliance. North Korea is the immediate trigger for Japanese anxiety, but similar uncertainties lie just beneath the surface when Japan contemplates China as well. U.S. assurances are needed — both to Japan and to potential adversaries that need to be deterred. Most important, however, is a “back to basics approach” for the United States and its alliance partners. Changing international circumstances and evolving domestic politics oblige Washington and its allies to focus on fundamentals of strategy to ensure that alliances have the foundation — the common worldview — that will allow them to survive and thrive in a new strategic environment.

Japan has long nestled under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Throughout the Cold War, America’s extended deterrent provided the foundation of the U.S.-Japan alliance: all potential enemies of Japan wrestled with the knowledge that an attack on Japan would trigger a U.S. response and that a nuclear attack could include a retaliatory attack with nuclear weapons. That prospect was thought sufficient to deter those enemies.

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