pacific forum History of Pacific Forum

Issues & Insights Vol. 10 – No. 09

The US-Japan alliance, like any relationship that has lasted 50 years, has had its ups and downs. There have been genuine crises that appear to be make-or-break moments, such as the 1995 rape incident in Okinawa. There have been strains created by political and economic developments that forced the two counties to modernize their alliance. Today, however, a confluence of forces – a new government in Tokyo, an economic crisis in the US, the rise of China, and seeming paralysis and disturbing long-term demographic trends in Japan – poses a challenge of a different kind. There are worries that the base of support for the US-Japan alliance is shrinking, that the two countries may be looking elsewhere for partners, and that an alliance forged during the Cold War has lost its relevance. There are fears that this partnership is losing its vitality and "the most important bilateral relationship bar none" is being eclipsed. Reinvigorating the alliance should be a top priority.