America and Japan may be long-term allies, but they have had their share of differences recently. In particular, Japanese-American security relations were bogged down for several years over Japan’s pledges to relocate an American Air Force base following the transition in government in 2009.That dispute is finally nearing resolution, however, and the recent White House visit by Yoshita Noda the first ever by a Prime Minister from the Democratic Party of Japan, is an additional sign that tensions are easing. After a three-year detour, U.S.-Japan cooperation seems back on track.Richard Weitz is taking this opportunity to assess the potential of U.S.-Japanese cooperation in “rebalancing” Asia in the years ahead:
The Japan-U.S. Joint Statement during [PM Yoshita] Noda’s visit affirmed the harmony of the two countries regional security and economic goals based on liberal democratic principles. Indeed, the Obama administration’s strategic rebalancing to Asia and the DJP’s commitment to developing a dynamic defense force can likely reinforce one another by facilitating their shared goal of promoting peace and stability throughout East Asia through an elevated security presence and measures to maintain access to the global commons such as freedom of navigation and secure cyber networks.The common strategic objectives included several related to China, such as promoting defense transparency and adherence to widely accepted international norms of behavior, discouraging the acquisition of destabilizing military technology, promoting multinational security cooperation, and ensuring access to global commons of the sea, air, space, and cyberspace.
America and Japan will not be the only countries affected. Weitz also describes the increase in trilateral initiatives spearheaded by Japan and the U.S.—initiatives that include Australia and South Korea—in what looks to be the beginning of a push for that patchwork of cooperation in Asia.This looks a lot like a natural extension of the Game of Thrones. As the countries along China’s rim partner with each other as well as with America, a number of the smaller disputes that have characterized Asian politics for the past half-century or longer will need to be set aside.This will not always be easy. There will be some setbacks along the way. But as Noda’s White House visit demonstrates, Japan, for one, is interested in taking these partnerships to the next level.