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A hallmark of the Trump administration has been the tension between the U.S. president’s personal views on the value of his country’s alliances and the way that the U.S. government has engaged those allies. With few exceptions, the traditional view — that those partnerships are integral to U.S. security and the protection of its national interests — has prevailed. The conventional wisdom was on display last week in Washington when Japan and the United States held the Security Consultative Committee (SCC or “two-plus-two”) meeting, the regular get-together of the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers. Their affirmation of the value of the alliance and their articulation of a shared vision for the region are a reminder that the Japan-U.S. partnership remains central to regional security and an invaluable tool at a time of complex and increasingly challenging changes in the international security environment.

The statement from last week’s meeting attended by Foreign Minister Taro Kono, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan noted the allies’ agreement that “geopolitical competition and coercive attempts to undermine international rules, norms, and institutions present challenges to the Alliance and to the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.” They affirmed their commitment to “a free and open Indo-Pacific” — the organizing framework for both countries’ thinking about regional affairs — in which “all nations are sovereign, strong, and prosperous.”

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