pacific forum History of Pacific Forum

Issues & Insights Vol. 12 – No. 14 — The US-Japan Alliance: New Direction in an Uncertain World

On March 23, 2012, Pacific Forum and the Japan Institute for International Affairs (JIIA) brought 14 Young Leaders from the United States and Japan to the 18th US-Japan strategic seminar in San Francisco. While attending sessions led by senior US and Japanese officials and academics, the Young Leaders were tasked with re-examining the rationale and utility of the US-Japan alliance and asked to look at new forms of cooperation for the alliance. They identified three criteria for their search: the new roles should (1) be possible for the alliance as it is currently configured; (2) fit current security needs for both countries; and (3) promote closer security cooperation among states around the Asia Pacific. Young Leaders arrived at these criteria after noting that the US-Japan alliance has been adapting and evolving to meet the shifting security environment since the end of the Cold War. The benchmark for the group was the 1996 Japan-US Joint Declaration on Security in 1996, which recognized that the US-Japan alliance should broaden its remit from bilateral to regional security, and develop new areas for alliance coordination, such as proliferation, peacekeeping, and humanitarian relief operations. Young Leaders sought to replicate this type of incremental shift in the alliance with their recommendations.