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Japan-U.S. Alliance in Harmony? Perspectives from Power, Interests, and Values

Issues & Insights Vol. 22, SR9, pp. 21-30


This paper analyzes the policies of Japan and the United States from three perspectives: power, economic interests, and values. The paper explores where their policy preferences converge and where they differ. Unsurprisingly, Japan and the United States have contrasting interests, but if their strategies are too different, it could allow China or Russia an opportunity to decouple them. Regarding power, Japan and the United States share threat perceptions of China and have cooperated to strengthen the alliance. Though there are challenges to be resolved, especially for Japan to play a more active role, they are basically on the same page. In terms of economic interests, they have different priorities; while the current U.S. economic policy is affected by the Trump administration’s America First approach and economic security, Japan has tried to maintain a liberal economic order. As for the values, the two countries also take different approaches. The United States tends to project values such as democracy and human rights more into diplomacy. However, Japan is reluctant to emphasize those values. Overall, Japan needs to evaluate how sustainable its passive stance on values is in the face of intensifying U.S.-China competition. The United States, on the other hand, needs to evaluate how effective its economic strategy and values-based diplomacy will be in sustaining the liberal international order.

About this Volume

Authors of this volume participated in the inaugural U.S.-Japan Next-Generation Leaders Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, through the U.S. Embassy Tokyo. With backgrounds from academia, government, military and industry, the cohort brings rich insights on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Japan bilateral security relations.

The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their respective organizations and affiliations. Pacific Forum’s publications do not necessarily reflect the positions of its staff, donors and sponsors.

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Yu Inagaki is a research assistant at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) working under the Japan-U.S. Program. He is also an active member of the Young Leaders Program at the Pacific Forum. Yu received his MA from the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, where he majored in international relations and strategic studies. His research interests include theories of International Relations, grand strategy, international order, and security in the Indo-Pacific. Among his latest work is a paper comparing the Indo-Pacific Strategy of Japan and the United States. Previously, he interned at the Hudson Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), both in Washington, DC, and also at the Asia Pacific Initiative in Tokyo. At SPF, he helps run several study groups on Japan-U.S. relations and assists in related research.

Photo: President Joe Biden attends a green tea ceremony hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and his wife Yuko Kishida, Monday, May 23, 2022, at Kochuan restaurant in Tokyo. Source: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz