The March 23 story, “Washington snubs Japan on metals exemptions as $60 billion in new tariffs on China roil markets,” adds further evidence that President Donald Trump is taking the U.S. alliance with Japan for granted. For a nation that is described as a linchpin in American foreign policy in East Asia, Japan deserves much better.

Since 1945, Japan has played a secondary role to the U.S. in stabilizing Asia’s power dynamics. But with the change in American strategic posture coinciding with China’s rise in the Pacific Rim, Japan finds itself at the forefront of defending the region’s security and economic interests. In recent years, this upgraded role is most clearly seen with Japan’s growing strategic relationship with India. This partnership has manifested itself in several recent policies such as the India-Japan civil nuclear deal and Japan’s permanent membership in the U.S.-India Malabar exercises.

Japan has already taken the driver’s seat to push forward the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. Most recently, it led the efforts to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. withdrew last year. More ambitiously, Japan is cooperating with India to create the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, a project aimed at propelling growth and investment in Asia and Africa; many also view this as pushback against China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Toward that end, Japan, on its own, is also expanding its strategic investments around Asia in an effort to counterbalance China’s growing influence. For example, China has been heavily involved with infrastructure projects in Myanmar and the Philippines, but Japan is also there with development aid and investment.

In this regard, in the wake of American disengagement, Japan has been steadfastly working to maintain the robust yet fragile rules-based Asian order. From strengthening multilateral institutions to forging security partnerships with new friends like India, Japan has become a leading advocate for a strong rules-based security and economic order in Asia. The Trump administration should stop mischaracterizing its relationship with Japan.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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