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The strongest military alliances tend to be tempered on the battlefield, strengthened in combat against a mutual adversary. There, political bonds and effectiveness of military interoperability are put to the test.

For decades following the end of the postwar Occupation, the Japan-U.S. alliance had no such test — certainly nothing that required mass mobilization and coordinated response with such high stakes involved. That is, until Japan experienced a devastating earthquake in 2011 off the coast of Tohoku, triggering a tsunami that wiped out the northeastern coastline and sparking the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

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