Leveraging the Alliance: Asymmetries, Bargaining Power, and Japan’s Search for a More Equal Alliance [Submitted Edition]

[What follows is a working edition of a paper I have submitted to the 2013 National Sun Yat-sen University’s Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies international conference to be held November 7-9. It has also been accepted at a student presentation paper at the 2013 National Sun Yat-sen University’s Center for Japanese Studies international conference on November 2. Any constructive reader comments are welcomed.~nwn]



Hedging has become a watchword in international relations literature, particularly over the past several years. Japan’s relationship with its U.S. ally and a rising China has been, at various times, referred to as “hedging” or a “dual hedge.” Many concepts of hedging have been put forth, none of which are mutually exclusive. This research does not contradict the “hedging” frameworks of others; instead, it seeks to subsume them by introducing a mechanism that has thus far been ignored, or at least rendered a secondary factor, by scholars: the concept of intra-alliance bargaining. This research argues that Japanese foreign policy has been centered on keeping its alliance with the United States intact while seeking to enhance Japan’s bargaining position vis-à-vis its senior partner. But in keeping its alliance intact, Japan has also sought a renegotiation of that alliance which offers it a more equal position at the alliance bargaining table. To achieve that end, Japan has been cultivating potential, viable alliance alternatives, foremost among which is the People’s Republic of China. Past Japanese attempts at enhancing autonomy via domestic and external means have proven too costly or of little or no viability. Japan’s relations with China pose the potential to gain Japan that long-sought leverage and bargaining power, a potential that exists whether Japanese leaders realize it, intend it, or not.


I. Introduction


Throughout the better part of the past two decades, an evolving debate between Japan specialists regarding the nature and orientation of Japanese foreign policy has been occurring. Is Japan’s foreign policy reactive (held hostage by foreign pressure, or gaiatsu), proactive and independent, or some combination of the two?[1] Postwar Japan’s interactions with other states in the international system and the approach it has taken toward international affairs as a whole appeared constrained for numerous reasons, many of which can be categorized as international-systemic (for example, the bipolarity of the Cold War, Japan’s dependence on its U.S. ally for many of its most essential security needs) or domestic-social (for instance, the Three Non-Nuclear Principles,[2] the Three Principles on Arms Exports, the decades-old informal cap that keeps Japanese military spending at or below one percent of Japan’s Gross Domestic Product [GDP]). Moreover, memories of atrocities committed by the Japanese armed forces during the first half of the twentieth century, which still garner anti-Japanese outbursts among Japan’s neighbors each time a prominent figure visits the Yasukuni Shrine or the Ministry of Education approves the publication of a history textbook that does not adhere to what Japan’s neighbors believe to be proper interpretation of Japan’s imperialist past, continue to hamper Japan’s relations with many states in East Asia. However, as Japan’s (informal) relations with the People’s Republic of China in the early and mid 1950s, (mostly economic) relations with the Soviet Union in the late 1960s and early 1970s, unofficial relations with North Vietnam before 1973 and its relations with a united communist Vietnam after 1973, relations with Myanmar (Burma) even while the United States imposed sanctions against the junta regime, and its relations with Iran are but a few instances in which Japan’s foreign policy positions and practices have been to some extent autonomous of the policies of its powerful ally. And to be sure, history and memory have not denied Japan the opportunity of sending diplomatic feelers to even the most hostile and threatening of states, not even the North Korean regime in Pyongyang.[3]

Of crucial importance—and perhaps even more crucial from a long-term perspective than Japan-North Korean relations—is Japan’s approach to the rising People’s Republic of China (hereafter simply China) and how it manages both its relations with its behemoth neighbor and its alliance with the United States. Some scholars have used the term “hedging” or “dual hedge” to conceptualize Japan’s ongoing strategic debate and its potential future trajectory. Many different explanations and justifications of this “hedge” have been put forward, with some scholars arguing that it is a balance between hard and soft power approaches to shaping Chinese behavior; others making the point that there are both economic and security aspects involved, in which Japan depends for its economic well being on China’s economic growth and for its security on the United States and the U.S.-Japan alliance; others claiming that it is Japan’s way of avoiding the classic “alliance security dilemma”[4] of abandonment-entrapment by its ally; still others believing that it consists of a mixture of (primarily economic) engagement and (military) containment; or, as two other scholars put it, actually consisting of “multiple hedges: a hedge against U.S. decline and Chinese aggression, a hedge against [the aforementioned alliance security dilemma], and a hedge against predation and protectionism in economic affairs.”[5] Most assessments of Japan’s hedge, as well as most assessments of “hedging” strategies of other states, tend to take the position that hedging is generally stabilizing or at least the best states can do in periods of strategic flux when the international order or structure may be shifting.

This paper takes several different positions from those of the previous paragraph and focuses particularly on Japan’s approach to a rising China in the context of the U.S.-Japan alliance. First, this paper does not discount the arguments made by others but, rather, attempts to add greater order to the various claims made regarding Japan’s motivations for such a strategic approach. Specifically, Japanese “hedging” or “dual hedge” can be conceived of as another, different, attempt by Japan to enhance its autonomy with regard to its alliance with the United States; this claim can, if viable, subsume many of the dispersed assertions regarding Japanese objectives and reasons for hedging. To do so, the term “autonomy” needs a somewhat nuanced definition, but one which is not altogether different from many diplomatic strategies utilized in the past. Second, this research argues that Japan is seeking enhanced autonomy via external means since many of Japan’s previous attempts at carving out a greater autonomous position within the greater framework of the U.S.-Japan alliance have been met with mixed and relatively lackluster results. Third, enhancing Japanese autonomy creates, via my definition of autonomy, a greater number of higher quality diplomatic alternatives beyond merely the United States under the umbrella of the U.S.-Japan alliance; the motivation for seeking more and better alternatives is not to undermine the alliance per se[6] but, rather, to increase Japan’s bargaining power vis-à-vis the United States within the broader framework of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Fourth, the motivation for seeking enhanced bargaining power vis-à-vis the United States while maintaining the alliance is the Japanese desire for creating a more equal position for Japan in its alliance with the United States. Although there are certainly other, and potentially very lucrative, payoffs (or side effects) involved in both hedging and seeking greater bargaining power within the alliance framework, I argue that this is a—and perhaps the—major motivation for Japan to seek closer relations with Beijing while wishing to keep its alliance with the United States intact. Moreover, it is a characteristic of Japanese strategy that scholars have heretofore overlooked. Finally, the findings of this research suggest that, contrary to most of the literature on hedging in general, hedging may not be as stabilizing as most scholars tend to portray it: given the risks and the delicate balancing acts inherent in the Japanese approach, the outcome of Japan’s hedge is uncertain and poses the problem of being at least as destabilizing as it may be stabilizing.

This paper is organized as follows. The second (following) section lays out the theoretical framework for this research, focusing on literature from international relations theory, alliance politics, and Japan’s “dual hedge.” The third section deals briefly with several past attempts made by Japan to increase its autonomy and bargaining power vis-à-vis the United States; this section also establishes the existence of the Japanese desire for a more equal alliance relationship with the United States and gives rise to a somewhat nuanced definition of autonomy, which will be used throughout the remainder of the present work. The fourth section consists of dual historical analyses which juxtapose Japan’s approaches to China and the United States and the effects of such diplomatic efforts.[7] The fifth section explains findings, discusses how the Japanese strategy may be problematic, offers several suggestions for related future research, and concludes.


II. The Theoretical Cut: International Relations, Alliance Politics, and Japan’s Hedge


International Relations Theory: Neoclassical Realism

Since the demise of the Cold War, many scholars have expressed pessimism about the future of East Asia.[8] Much of this debate centers on the shifting power structure occurring in the international system,[9] whether China is a status quo or revisionist power,[10] and the U.S. ability and willingness to remain engaged in the region,[11] especially in order to reassure allies and security partners in the context of China’s rise. Theoretically speaking, the post-Cold War international system is problematic, and East Asia’s position in it and the general reactions of East Asian countries to structural change have not resulted in clear-cut balancing or bandwagoning strategies.[12] East Asia has to some extent frustrated the expectations of so-called neo-/structural realists insofar as they argue that the structure of the international system determines actor behavior.[13] Structural explanations themselves, as Waltz argues, can be shown to “produce outcomes that fall within expected ranges [despite the fact that the units themselves are different],” but “[e]ach state arrives a policies and decides on actions according to its own internal processes” and, thus, at the unit level of analysis.[14] Hence, a theory that accounts for both systemic factors and unit (i.e., state) decisions and behavior under said constraints is needed.

Neoclassical realism, first expounded upon by Gideon Rose, supplies such a theory.[15] Neoclassical realism takes the anarchic structure of the international system as delineated by Kenneth Waltz[16] to be the starting point of its inquiry.[17] However, it also recognizes that a particular state’s place in the international system as well as its relative material capabilities cannot by themselves account for that state’s foreign policy ambitions. By placing far greater emphasis on perceptions, ideas, and especially domestic politics than do neo-/structural realists, neoclassical realists can account for a greater number of factors shaping the foreign policies of actors in the international arena. The structure of the international system may constrain the actions and choices of states and decision makers or incentivize certain actions or choices, but, neoclassical realists argue, so do a number of domestic variables that neo-/structural realists overlook or simply assume away.[18] As Rose argues, neoclassical realist scholars recognize that in order to understand the way states interpret and respond to their external environment,


one must analyze how systemic pressures are translated through unit-level intervening variables such as decision-makers’ perceptions and domestic state structure. . . . International anarchy . . . is neither Hobbesian nor benign but rather murky and difficult to read. States existing within it have a hard time seeing clearly whether security is plentiful or scarce and must grope their way forward in twilight, interpreting partial and problematic evidence according to subjective rules of thumb.[19]


Also among these intervening variables are the strength of the state in relation to its society (for example, a state’s ability to extract and mobilize resources),[20] and what Rathbun terms “ideas,” which can be taken roughly to mean national ideology, national character, or strategic culture.[21] Thus, neoclassical realism provides the scholar of international relations and foreign policy the means of accounting for variables at multiple levels of analysis[22] while remaining within the confines of a single unified theoretical construct that remains true to essential realist principles and concepts.


Alliance Politics: The Theoretical Cut

As mentioned above, neo-/structural realists have developed two general concepts to describe alliance formation, balancing and bandwagoning. Waltz has argued that states balance against the most powerful states in the system, meaning states with the greatest military capabilities. States can balance in one of two ways. First, states balance internally by enhancing their own individual military capabilities. Second, states may balance externally by allying with other states in the international system. States, so the argument goes, balance against other powerful states in the system based on those states military capabilities.[23]

While not breaking entirely with Waltz’s central concepts, Stephen Walt takes a step in the direction of neoclassical realism by including the concept of threat to Waltz’s notion of balancing. In a critique of Waltz’s balance of power, Walt offers “balance-of-threat” theory, which states that “[a]lthough power [as capabilities] is an important part of the equation, it is not the only one. It is more accurate to say that states tend to ally with or against the foreign power that poses the greatest threat.”[24] By bringing the variables of threat and threat levels, which according to Walt are based on “aggregate power,” “geographic proximity,” “offensive power,” and “aggressive intentions,” into the picture, Walt brings the perceptions of decision makers and polities to the fore and, hence, moves away from a strict Waltzian-systemic interpretation of alliance formation.[25]

Perceptions as well play a major role not only in alliance formation but also their maintenance and durability. Fears of abandonment and entrapment[26] stem not only from systemic factors but from fear, perceptions, and other psychological factors as well.[27] As Rose writes, “Foreign policy choices are made by actual political leaders and elites” and thus it is their perceptions that matter and not structural or capabilities alone.[28] For example, as Victor Cha argues with regard to the U.S.-Japan-Korea relationship, perceptions of U.S. commitment to its allies—who, incidentally, have quarrels between themselves—have a direct effect on their abilities and willingness to either cooperate or clash; perceptions that the United States may relax its commitments to them both equally has the effect of causing them to cooperate, while perceptions of equally strong U.S. commitments to both or commitment asymmetries (i.e., a strong perceived commitment to Japan and a weak perceived commitment to South Korea, or vice-versa) tends to stir contention between the two regardless of the level of threat they both, together or separately, face.[29]

Cha’s study injects a different variable altogether into the alliance formation and maintenance debate. Because U.S. commitments to its allies changed, or were at least perceived to have changed, regardless of the level of threat the United States and it allies, together or separately, faced, balance-of-threat theory cannot account entirely for alliance commitments. Moreover, the form of relationship between Seoul and Tokyo changed not due to any direct external threat per se but on the level of overall commitment from their shared patron (the United States) as well as the existence or nonexistence of asymmetries in the perceived levels of commitment from their shared patron. Because Cha’s argument centers on asymmetries of power and (perceived) levels of commitment (symmetrical/asymmetrical, high/low), the focus shifts to symmetries and asymmetries of power and commitment—and perceptions of both.

A further study by Cha reconstructs the importance of power asymmetries in alliance politics. This line of argumentation asserts that asymmetric bilateral alliances serve the dual purpose of deterring external aggression and restraining an ally (especially if that ally is considered rogue, irresponsible, or otherwise untrustworthy). A third purpose, one Cha claims was to attract another (defeated) great power, that being Japan, to the American cause of containing communism and so use said great power to American purposes. Initially seeking to disarm Japan and reintegrate it into an Asian multilateral group and thereby provide for Japan’s security, the United States reversed course when the conflict of the Cold War became clear and present. At this point, Cha argues, “[t]he United States then turned toward creating strong bilateral alliance ties with Japan to contain the Cold War threat, as well as to exert U.S. control and to build a politically stable state that would act consistently in advancement of U.S. interests.” Hence, three purposes can account for the U.S. selection of asymmetrical bilateral alliances in Asia: to deter the spread of communism to those countries, to restrain less-than-reliable allies who might entrap the United States in conflicts it would otherwise have no desire to join, and to use allies to specific U.S. purposes and serving U.S. interests by, in effect, “winning” them over to the overall U.S. cause. Overall, the United States chose a “hub-and-spokes” system of asymmetrical bilateral alliances “to exert maximum control over the smaller ally’s actions.”[30]

In forging such asymmetrical bilateral alliances, moreover, the United States precluded the potential autonomy and greater bargaining power to smaller allies that could be gained via bilateral or multilateral alliances between them. Allowing alliance ties between smaller allies would have diluted the U.S. ability to control allied actions by giving said allies alternative means to provide for their own security and the pursuit of their own interests. By forging almost exclusive bilateral ties, the United States in effect gained almost complete control over the foreign policies of the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea), the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan, and, although with different intentions but similar methods, Japan.[31]

As Glenn Snyder has argued, the development and cultivation of viable diplomatic alternatives to bilateral alliances poses the potential of enhancing not only the relative influence of one of the allies over the other in a bilateral alliance but also the bargaining power of said ally within the structure of the bilateral alliance vis-à-vis the other ally. The less influence and bargaining power an allied state has relative to its ally in a bilateral alliance, the more dependent it is on that ally: “In general, the allies will be more dependent on each other’s support the greater the threat from the adversary, the greater the reliance on the ally for meeting the threat, and the fewer and less desirable the alternatives [i.e., other potential allies].”[32] Correspondingly, the determinants of bargaining power between allies are “perceptions of their comparative dependence, commitments, and the intensity of interest in whatever they are bargaining about.”[33]

The choice to ally, according to Snyder, represents a tradeoff between security and autonomy, as a state surrenders at least a portion of its autonomy in order to ally and, thus, becomes to some extent dependent on its ally for its own security.[34] Thus, autonomy and dependence exist at polar ends of a continuum; perceptions of both allied states about their own and their ally’s levels of autonomy and dependence within the alliance framework shape negotiations between them. Moreover, because the relations between allies are constantly shifting relative to each other, perceptions of each other’s places on the continuum may not be in line with realities. History serves as the best guide to the respective places of each ally within the alliance, but history and perceptions may not in fact mirror reality.[35] If perceptions are discovered to diverge from reality, alliance renegotiation and, likely, revision, may take place.[36]

Michael Green, in contrast, proposes that the autonomy-dependence dilemma within an alliance structure is not necessarily strictly dichotomous. Instead, Green argues that certain measures taken to enhance “indigenous capabilities would lead to greater influence within the alliance structure rather than escape from dependence [on an ally].”[37] In this sense, greater autonomy within the alliance itself has the potential to enhance not only the overall capabilities of the alliance but also the bargaining power of a weaker or junior partner in an asymmetrical alliance.[38]



Capabilities and threats, either separately or together, can provoke the creation of balancing coalitions. Improvements in capabilities can be viewed as a threat, or tensions and perceived threats can lead to the improvement of a potential adversary’s capabilities. As Cha points out, however, that balance-of-threat theory functions differently when allies are beholden to a great- or superpower patron. Moreover, alliances—particularly the bilateral and asymmetrical variety—form, function, and are maintained for reasons beyond simply balancing against or deterring a threat: they can also serve the purpose of maximizing the control a senior alliance partner has over a junior ally in order to constrain that ally’s activities as well as to make certain that an ally behaves in ways that best serve the senior partner’s interests. Snyder points out that alliance partners can enhance their bargaining power vis-à-vis each other via various means, including by cultivating viable alternative alliance partners; and an ally that has a higher degree of bargaining power and a number of viable alternatives can reduce the pressures from the alliance security dilemma (i.e., abandonment and entrapment fears) thereby. Green makes a strong case against viewing the autonomy-security (or, in this case, autonomy-dependence) dilemma in alliance formation and maintenance in dichotomous terms and instead points out that greater autonomy for alliance partners within a bilateral alliance framework is possible even for a junior partner. Green’s study focuses on domestic policies and practices that can enhance intra-alliance autonomy;[39] Snyder’s analysis poses the potential corollary that external or international policies and practices can reap similar benefits.


Japan’s Foreign Policy: The Hedge

Victor Cha’s research on U.S. motives for concluding exclusively bilateral asymmetrical alliance relations with several East Asian countries[40] helps one understand from a different perspective why Japan’s foreign policy, particularly during the Cold War, was viewed as passive and reactive.[41] Japan’s postwar foreign policy was in effect controlled almost exclusively by its superpower patron not only because Japanese leaders acquiesced to such control but because the alliance itself, in the midst of the Cold War confrontation, was designed to allow the United States such control. Although certain attempts made domestically to enhance Japan’s autonomy were made,[42] they were eventually to prove unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Japan’s attempts to form alternative relationships with nations deemed by Washington to be adversaries were either relatively inconsequential to the U.S.-Japan alliance (North Vietnam and Communist Vietnam, for example) or eventually failed within the confines of the Cold War international structure as well as under U.S. pressure (People’s Republic of China to 1972, the Soviet Union). Only one of these relationships appears to be of any major consequence to the current trajectory of Japanese foreign policy and the U.S.-Japan alliance: that is, Japan’s relationship with China.[43]

Several scholars have emphasized the shift in fears and threats Japanese leaders have perceived and been forced to deal with since the demise of the Cold War. Once concerned primarily with avoiding entrapment in the global Cold War conflict, the collapse of the Soviet Union effectively undermined, it seemed, the raison d’être of the U.S.-Japan alliance; hence, Japanese leaders became more concerned with the prospect of abandonment by their superpower patron.[44] In order to cope with the potential for U.S. abandonment, Japanese leaders have, according to some, opted for different forms of hedging strategies.[45]

Other scholars focus on the dual nature of hedging, namely, the elements of containment (or balancing) and accommodation/engagement that are implied within the concept of hedging.[46] Mike Mochizuki has demonstrated that this carrot-and-stick approach also applies to Japan’s approach in dealing with a rising China, arguing that “[b]y the late 1990s, Japan’s policy had clearly shifted to a mixed approach of both engaging and balancing against China. While seizing the commercial opportunities presented by China’s booming market, Japan is now hedging against a possible threatening China.” Although risks are still very much present, Mochizuki notes that such a strategy has not been without a certain degree of success, noting that “as Japan has become more assertive and less accommodative toward China [since the demise of the “friendship diplomacy” period from 1972 to the 1990s], China has shown some signs of becoming somewhat more conciliatory of Japan.”[47]

Similarly, Eric Heginbotham and Richard Samuels emphasize both the military and economic aspects of Japan’s security. Growing out of the concept of comprehensive security,[48] Japan’s “dual hedge,” according to Heginbotham and Samuels, is a formulation by pragmatic Japanese leaders to pursue Japan’s mercantilist[49] economic benefit (even at the risk of straining Japan’s alliance with the United States by continuing relations with partners the United States deems reprehensible) while continuing to rely on the United States for as much of its military security as possible and by doing the minimum necessary to demonstrate support for U.S. initiatives and military campaigns.[50] Japanese leaders in this sense are strategically calculating a continuance of the decades-long cheap ride Japan has been provided thanks to U.S. security guarantees. Tellingly, Heginbotham and Samuels assert that “Japan’s relationship with China deserves special attention in this [dual hedge] discussion.”[51]

Another facet of the hedging debate stems from what several scholars have termed Japan’s “hedge against predation and protectionism in economic affairs.”[52] This aspect of the hedging discussion is related to some extent to the economic arguments presented above but includes the possibility of “contribut[ing] to the construction of a China-centered economic bloc”[53] in East Asia as a result of Tokyo-Washington economic frictions. These concerns are the results of decades of mutual U.S.-Japanese frustrations on the economic front as well as the development of regional trade blocs in North America and Europe. As these analysts have argued, “while the United States, Canada, and Mexico lurched forward with their North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), no comparable regional economic bloc emerged in Asia.”[54] Economic relations with China, then, stand as a potential response to the threat of exclusive economic regionalism.[55]

A final aspect of the hedging issue involves Japan’s “hedge against U.S. decline and Chinese aggression.”[56] Of these, some have expressed concern about the relative decline of U.S. power and the willingness and ability of the United States to protect Japan against a belligerent and expansionist China and have suggested that Japan leave the nuclear option on the table.[57] This hedge includes a response to Japanese “fret[s] about a Washington-Beijing ‘G2’ condominium” and those who “insist that Japan must do more to prepare for the (coming) day when the U.S. capabilities slip below its commitments.”[58] It also takes into account the possibility that “Washington might shrink from its commitment to Japan’s security (perhaps due to an unexpectedly rapid decline in U.S. relative power or growing American isolationism, for example).”[59]

What the above examination has thus far unearthed is the sheer complexity of “hedging” strategy and discourse and the many rationales, both similar and disparate, for their existence. This can be at least partially explained, no doubt, by the growing complexity of international relations in the post-Cold War era and the growing external challenges Japan faces.[60] It can also be explained to some extent, in Japan’s case, by the “strong continuity in the parameters of Japanese foreign policy since the end of the Cold War” and, despite these continuities, emerging “new ideas and new patterns of diplomacy since the end of the Cold War that do represent a pronounced departure of the past” that represent a groping for “a broad consensus . . . that Japan should assert its national interests more forcefully” or, as Michael Green terms it, “reluctant realism.”[61] In reality, all states face both similar international and domestic constraints and constraints particular to their own respective international and domestic situations. As Richard Samuels writes, “Hedging is a fundamental principle of any realist grand strategy,” and Japan will be no different: “To reduce associated risks, Japan will be cautious. It will be normal. It will hedge.”[62]

The problem inherent in such all-encompassing and overly used term is that it risks describing both all and nothing at the same time. Evelyn Goh states this clearly when she writes that


what has been referred to as “hedging” behavior is the norm in international relations—engagement and diplomacy are the staples of international life. Most states adopt insurance policies, and while they establish military relationships with other states, they avoid committing themselves to potentially antagonistic stances toward other states most of the time. For any state, the bulk of foreign policy and diplomacy is about preserving a maximum range of strategic options. Small- and medium-size states rarely engage in true balancing, for it is costly. Large and powerful states rarely stick their necks out to adopt obviously offensive strategies aimed at power maximization or world domination.[63]


Yet Goh’s definition of hedging—“a set of strategies aimed at avoiding (or planning for contingencies in) a situation in which states cannot decide upon more straightforward alternatives such as balancing, bandwagoning, or neutrality. Instead they cultivate a middle position that forestalls or avoids having to choose one side [or one straightforward policy stance] at the obvious expense of another”[64]—is no less challenging: by claiming that such a definition may lead one to the conclusion that hedging is “a luxury of the relatively weak only,”[65] it leads one to ask three questions: 1) relatively weak in comparison to what or whom? 2) does Japan qualify in her definition as a prospective “hedger”? and 3) if Japan does qualify in relative power terms as a hedger, and if China will not accept U.S. hedging rhetoric,[66] will China accept Japan’s hedge as a relatively powerful U.S. ally?[67]

It is apparent that in order to add clarity to this ongoing and convoluted debate regarding hedging and Japan’s hedging strategy a new conceptual framework, one that both subsumes many of the arguments and assertions already stated and adds some novel explanatory mechanism to Japanese foreign policy behavior, is necessary. This research, in what follows, attempts to do just that.


Leveraging the Alliance: Diplomatic Alternatives, Bargaining Power, and the Search for a More Equal Alliance Relationship

Briefly, Japan is seeking through alternative—that is, external or diplomatic—means to create a more equal partnership with the United States within the framework of the U.S.-Japan alliance.[68] In the past, as will be documented in the following section, Japan has attempted to varying degrees to enhance its status within the alliance via internal-domestic and external-international means, all with varying (and mostly unsuccessful) results. However, the rise of China and how Japan manages its relations with its rising behemoth neighbor could provide it with a new means to quietly but decisively, slowly but surely, enhance its bargaining power vis-à-vis the United States within the U.S.-Japan alliance and thereby acquire a position of equality with the United States within the alliance framework that Japan has heretofore never possessed.

To some extent, this concept corresponds with James Schoff’s “hedging for show,”[69] but it need not by necessity do so. In using its relations with China as leverage in order to attain a more equal alliance position with the United States, Japan can very easily both seek the attainment of the same benefits it would gain with improved relations with China while also assuaging many of the risks involved in engaging a rising power.

In making this argument, I accept and even repeat the assertions made by many scholars of Japanese politics that Japanese leaders are essentially pragmatic and, therefore, do not seek needlessly to risk their nation’s security and possibly its economic wellbeing by initiating a crash remilitarization program. In shunning major rearmament and remilitarization, not to mention outright revision of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution (although saying nothing about a reinterpretation of Article 9 that may allow for, for example, collective self-defense), Japanese leaders have incentive to avoid jeopardizing their alliance relationship with the United States.[70] Thus, independent, full-fledged kokusanka-like indigenous arms production is unlikely due not only to international security and economic concerns but also domestic political and financial imperatives.[71] This is not to say that indigenous development and production will not occur; it simply means that they will not—and, arguably, cannot—play a major role in enhancing Japan’s alliance position vis-à-vis the United States.

From an alliance politics perspective, using relations with China, a regional great power and a potential challenger to the United States in Asia, to leverage a better alliance bargain makes a good deal of sense. In a region of mostly smaller and geographically distant powers separated by water and in some cases both land and water, not to mention the fact that many regional states have historical grievances against Japan, Japan has few bilateral alliance alternatives. Moreover, very few states in the region besides China (with the potential exception of Russia and, outside the region to some extent, India) possess the territorial and population sizes to be a viable alternative to the United States. Multilaterally, Japan may explore regional blocs and partnerships with other U.S. allies, but as Cha has argued,[72] this does not contradict the concept of leveraging. Indeed, were Japan to seek multilateral relationships with the intent to leverage itself into a better alliance bargaining position vis-à-vis the United States, it could certainly do so, since multilateral alliances tend to dilute the influence and control of a great-power patron that it would otherwise have within the framework of a bilateral alliance.

Such a prospect of using external-international alternatives to bargain a stronger position within a bilateral alliance allows Japan the ability to “hedge” in all the manners mentioned above. It can, as already mentioned, enhance Japan’s security without forcing Japan into and overly provocative military buildup. It can help assure Japan’s access to both U.S. and Chinese markets as it gives Japan an alternative to either U.S. or Chinese protectionism. And, most importantly, it keeps intact the “essential” U.S.-Japan alliance while both bolstering Japan’s bargaining position (and, thus, increasing both Japan’s intra-alliance autonomy and its level of intra-alliance equality with the United States) and helps ensure that the United States will more than likely be more attune to Japanese concerns and interests in the future, particularly as they affect the alliance itself.

In short, Japan is playing an increasingly active role in shaping the structure of the U.S.-Japan relationship. But in order to do so, it needs to have something with which it can ensure its position—i.e., it needs some form of leverage to enhancing its bargaining power vis-à-vis the “senior” alliance partner. A robust relationship with China which at times may to some extent resemble realignment may provide just such a lever.[73]


III. Groping for Autonomy, Pressing for Equality: Past Attempts, New Means


This section approaches the issue of Japanese autonomy-seeking from two perspectives, domestic- and international-oriented policy platforms. It also addresses Japan’s search for a greater level of equality with the United States within the framework of the U.S.-Japan alliance. As will be shown below, Japan in the past has used both methods in its attempt to enhance its autonomy both from the United States and within the alliance framework. Although this section focuses primarily on Japanese attempts to enhance Japan’s intra-alliance autonomy—i.e., its position vis-à-vis the United States within the broader context of the U.S.-Japan alliance—it does not discount Japanese attempts to enhance autonomy beyond or outside the alliance. Instead, it argues that regardless of the intentions of so-called autonomists, their methods are, at least for the time being, nudging Japan along a similar path. Indeed, it is impossible to know with any real certainty the true intentions of other people, and the same is true of Japanese leaders; even leaders’ public and interview statements may be deceptive, merely subjective, based on incomplete or biased information, or politically motivated. The issue is not so much their intentions per se as prospective outcomes;[74] or, as Richard Samuels writes, Japan is a robust democracy with many voices, and those who favor a particular stance or other are rarely politically aligned in Japan’s notoriously factious domestic political arena. Hence, “No one should expect the preferences of any single group to prevail for long” in Japan’s domestic grand-strategy debate.[75] Thus far, the results of Japanese attempts to enhance both its extra- and intra-alliance autonomy, whether those attempts have been domestically or internationally focused, have been relatively unimpressive although not completely so. Meanwhile, the problem of equality within the bilateral alliance is no less problematic, and Japanese attempts to foster a more equal relationship with the United States have also been only marginally successful.


Autonomy and Equality


As alluded to above, autonomy is typically viewed as the antithesis of dependence, interdependence, or, as in the case with alliances, security. This dichotomous, zero-sum understanding of autonomy is, however, somewhat misleading. Alliances can, depending on their offensive or defensive intent (or, to put in another way, an ally’s perception of the purpose of the alliance), grant one or more allies a freer hand in the pursuit of their own respective goals and interests.[76] As this section seeks to demonstrate, the U.S.-Japan alliance offers the opportunity to create a more nuanced concept of autonomy that is not dichotomous and zero-sum but, rather, potentially positive-sum and not necessarily threatening to alliance frameworks. However, attempts to create a higher level of intra-alliance autonomy are also fraught with risks.

It should also be mentioned here that intra-alliance autonomy need not come at the expense of extra-alliance autonomy (or vice-versa), although it certainly may. On the whole, this research posits that expanded intra-alliance autonomy and extra-alliance autonomy are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but their combination does add the potential for future risk to the overall health of the alliance.

My definition of autonomy is based on options or, as will be used throughout the present research, alternatives. By alternatives I mean both cultivating domestic and international or diplomatic[77] options to reliance on a particular partner or ally. Certainly, maintaining existing and cultivating new alternatives, both domestically and diplomatically, is a common practice in international politics. For starters, internal balancing, mentioned above, is a potential alternative to external balancing, and vice-versa. This choice—internal versus external balancing—is the most basic set of alternatives any state may have, although some states may not have the economic, industrial, technological, or demographic wherewithal to balance internally. Likewise, a state that is so entirely inept diplomatically as to have no potential external balancing partners is completely isolated and lacks this alternative. A state that lacks the means to balance internally and the diplomatic agility to balance externally is the least autonomous state in the international system.[78] I assume here that most states have at least a limited capacity to balance internally and have at least one other potential external balancing partner.[79]

By extra-alliance autonomy I mean a state’s possession of potential and viable alliance alternatives outside that state’s bilateral alliance partners and the allies of its bilateral allies.[80] The more numerous the number of extra-alliance alternatives a state has, the higher its degree of extra-alliance autonomy. In the case of Japan, relations with Iran, China, Myanmar, Russia, and India, among others not allied to the United States, are examples of Japan’s extra-alliance autonomy vis-à-vis its alliance with the United States. Typically in an asymmetrical alliance relationship, the senior or more powerful of the two allies tends to have a higher degree of extra-alliance autonomy, although this may not necessarily be the case. The bipolarity of the Cold War to some extent presented Japan with a greater level of extra-alliance autonomy with regard to its relations with North Vietnam and a united Communist Vietnam, its relations with the Soviet Union in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and its normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China prior to the normalization of Sino-U.S. relations.[81] The most important thing to note here is that no matter the relative extra-alliance autonomy each of the two allies possesses, the weaker or junior of the two will likely be affected to a greater degree by its ally’s level of extra-alliance autonomy since weaker allies tend to be more dependent on their more powerful partners than vice-versa. Hence, the greater numbers of viable extra-alliance alternatives the less dependent (usually the most powerful) of the two allies has, the higher the fears of abandonment the more dependent (usually the less powerful) of the two allies will have.[82]

By intra-alliance autonomy I mean the potential and viable alliance alternatives generated by two or more states sharing the same ally. This includes strictly bilateral alliances and also real or potential multilateral alliance arrangements. Ceteris paribus, the greater the number of allies one’s ally has, the greater the number of potential and viable intra-alliance alternatives one may have. Similarly, the great the number of allies one has, the greater the number of potential and viable intra-alliance alternatives one may have so long as one is not already allied with one’s ally’s (or allies’) allies. One need not become an ally of one’s ally’s (or allies’) allies, although one has the option of doing so in the future depending on the viability of becoming an ally to one’s ally’s (or allies’) ally (or allies). The most important aspect of this arrangement is that one has potential alternatives to one’s ally (or allies) due to the fact that one has allied with one’s ally (or allies) and that ally (or those allies) has allies. Such a situation—sharing a mutual ally or mutual allies—provides the possibility of improved relations (and possibly an alliance, either bilateral or multilateral[83]) that might not otherwise exist. In Japan’s case, U.S. alliances with Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states, and the Philippines are all examples.[84] Increased intra-alliance autonomy, based on an increased number of potential, viable intra-alliance alternatives, may increase alliance solidarity between the two sets of allies. It may also lead to the eventual foundation of a multilateral alliance or a separate bilateral alliance between the two (originally) non-allied states who share a mutual ally. Interestingly, as Victor Cha points out,[85] the establishment of a multilateral alliance which includes at least one great power may actually dilute the control the great power has over its allies’ respective foreign policies; originally, in the case of the U.S. hub-and-spokes system of alliances, U.S. power asymmetries in relation to its smaller and less powerful bilateral allies gave the United States a great deal of control over their respective international behaviors. Moreover, as Cha also points out,[86] perceived symmetries or asymmetries in a mutually shared great power ally’s commitment to each of its bilateral allies may have a direct effect on their relations with each other.

We have thus far established the two categories of autonomy, domestic and diplomatic, as well as the two subcategories of diplomatic autonomy—that is, extra- and intra-alliance autonomy—and listed some examples for Japan in these categories and subcategories, the time has come to examine in greater depth several of Japan’s opportunities to enhance its domestic an diplomatic (extra- and intra-alliance) autonomy.


DOMESTIC SOURCES OF AUTONOMY.[87] Typically, scholars tend to attribute a main source of Japan’s domestic autonomy to its industrial policy.[88] Political and economic institutions work together to not only promote domestic production but also to limit foreign imports and foreign direct investment (FDI). These measures, along with postwar constraints on Japan’s military and arms production and exports, have created market failures that demand government intervention to “simulate[] artificial market forces to promote strategic industries [to] counter[] structur[al] constraints” in the Japanese economy.[89] This makes for a domestic industrial base that in certain sectors is heavy in research and development but low in autonomous production. In the defense industry in particular, despite attempts at greater overall autonomy (especially in 1970 when Nakasone Yasuhiro was the head of the Japanese Defense Agency), international and domestic constraints have led Japanese industry to contribute to joint development and production projects but relatively few strictly autonomous ones.[90] This is not to say that Japanese industries have not benefitted from technology transfers;[91] instead, due to abovementioned constraints, kokusanka, or “national product-ization,” has proven in many instances too costly.[92] In this sense, there are major constraints on Japan’s domestic autonomy alternative: although economic, industrial, and technological autonomy may be to differing degrees more attainable for a country in Japan’s postwar international and domestic situation,[93] certain sectors (especially defense sectors) are heavily constrained and pose problems for Japan’s overall autonomous production policies and schemes. What is more, constraints and interdependence in these sectors also pose potential problems for other sectors not directly affected by such constraints, problems which an industrial policy may to some extent be able to alleviate.[94]


1) Extra-alliance autonomy.

As mentioned above, extra-alliance autonomy represents a state’s possession of potential and viable alliance alternatives outside that state’s bilateral alliance partners and the allies of its bilateral allies.[96] Japan, a country which has in the past been defined as reactive and lacking an independent foreign policy,[97] seems to lack viable extra-alliance alternatives by which it can enhance its bargaining power vis-à-vis its American ally. Although Japan certainly has relations with extra-alliance states, it does appear to lack viable extra-alliance alternatives (with the potential exception of three, Russia, China, and India, one of which—China—is the subject of the next section). This section briefly outlines relations with three nations that may be considered potential extra-alliance alternatives for Japan: Vietnam, Iran, and Russia.[98]

a)          Vietnam. Postwar Japan-Vietnam relations[99] saw alternating periods of Japanese proactivism in response to weakening U.S. commitments to Southeast Asia and reactivism to U.S. regional strategy. With the normalization of relations with China, Japan, despite the ongoing war in Vietnam, saw Vietnam as a potential opportunity within Tokyo’s “omnidirectional diplomacy” strategy. Throughout the 1970s, Japan’s approach to Vietnam offered both economic and political benefits to both countries although Japan proceeded with caution due to lingering anti-Japanese sentiments in the region. However, the return to Cold War tensions after the demise of superpower détente and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan signaled a change in Japanese behavior in Vietnam (and greater Indochina) during the 1980s. Moreover, U.S.-PRC rapprochement and the signing of the Sino-Japanese Peace and Friendship Treaty in August 1978 led to the isolation and alienation of Vietnam, which then aligned itself more closely with the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, Vietnam has played a significant role in Japan’s policy toward East Asia although Japan’s freedom of maneuver is still constrained by U.S. pressure. Furthermore, the potential for Japan-Vietnam bilateral relations or expanding or co-opting Japan-Vietnam relations into a larger form of East Asian multilateralism as a viable alternative to the U.S.-Japan alliance (and, thus, increasing Japan’s bargaining power vis-à-vis its American ally) has also been constrained due to improving relations between the United States and Vietnam.[100] Vietnam could, for example, prove a potential U.S. alternative to the U.S.-Japan alliance; although perhaps somewhat farfetched, such a possibility exists no matter how miniscule it may appear at present.

b)          Iran. Japan’s relations with Iran could prove either very lucrative or extremely costly. In 2002, it seemed to several scholars that this bilateral relationship could prove a problem for the U.S.-Japan alliance since Japan could benefit regardless of U.S. policy toward Iran and, thus, Japan had little incentive to cooperate with the United States on Iran.[101] Again in 2007, one of these scholars believed Japan’s relations with Iran “potentially the most consequential” for U.S.-Japan relations since “Japan’s commitment to nonproliferation and its alliance with the United States collide head-on with threats to [Japan’s] energy security.”[102] However, it appears as though Japan has begun move closer to the U.S. position by significantly reducing its oil imports from Iran.[103] These shifts in Japanese policy alone, although not definitive, suggest that Japan may be forfeiting at least a portion of any potential benefit it could gain from closer relations with Iran. Undoubtedly, U.S. pressure on Japan has had an effect on Japan’s policies toward Iran; in any event, the main issue of concern here is that while the United States continues to distance itself from Iran and make Iran an even less appealing potential alternative to the U.S.-Japan alliance, Japan seems also to be making any potential Iran alternative less viable.

c)          Russia.[104] At first glance, Russia also appears a lucrative economic partner for Japan, and indeed it just may be. Moreover, Russia’s military capabilities, although not on par with those of the United States, are of the caliber that they may be able to provide some form of rival security guarantee sometime in the not-so-distant future. No matter how unlikely that scenario may be, improved Japanese relations with Russia could still pose as a counterweight to Japan’s relations with the United States if need be. Russia’s vast energy resources could prove irresistible to a Japan that is cutting its reliance on Iranian hydrocarbons while at the same time facing uncertainty about its nuclear facilities after the triple disaster on March 11, 2011. If energy becomes scarce, Japanese industries and their organizations and lobbying groups may be able to apply enough pressure on the Japanese government to push for improved ties with Russia. Some improvements have taken place recently[105] despite the ongoing territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands (known in Japan as the Northern Territories). These improvements, although small in comparison to their potential, are striking in that they have come when U.S.-Russian relations have gone downhill over the Edward Snowden case[106] and the crisis in Syria.[107] Still, the territorial disputes are likely to continue to cause difficulties in Japan’s relations with Russia despite the positive effects enhanced economic relations might have, and trading a U.S. security alliance for a Russian one is unlikely anytime soon. Thus, although Russia may be a potential alternative to Japanese dependence on the United States, the viability of such an alternative is questionable. Although, as will be shown below, Russia-Japan relations are somewhat less problematic than Sino-Japan relations, they are perhaps only slightly more viable than Sino-Japanese relations as an alternative—and relations with China, on the other hand, perhaps appear more lucrative in other dimensions.[108]

2) Intra-alliance autonomy.

As defined above, intra-alliance autonomy covers the potential and viable alliance alternatives generated by two or more states sharing the same ally, including the possibilities of bilateral alliances or multilateral alliances between those states. Again, here we are concerned primarily with viable intra-alliance alternatives that can potentially generate bargaining power between a junior partner and its senior ally (for example, an alliance between Japan and Australia may enhance both Japan’s and Australia’s bargaining power vis-à-vis their shared bilateral ally, the United States). In this section, three case studies will be chosen to test their potential viability as alternatives, two bilateral relationships and one multilateral one[109]: a Japanese bilateral alliance with South Korea; a Japanese bilateral alliance with Australia; and a Japanese multilateral alliance with Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand.[110]

a)  South Korea. At first glance, there appears much to be gained from a Japan-ROK bilateral alliance. The two nations share similar threats from North Korea as well as the same superpower patron, the United States. The absence of a Japan-ROK bilateral or trilateral (with the United States) security construct cannot be blamed on a lack of U.S. interest in such a construct.[111] Issues of history continue to plague the Japan-South Korea relationship, and the Dokdo-Takeshima Islands[112] dispute between the two countries poses the constant potential of poisoning bilateral relations. South Korea’s relatively small size in comparison to the United States makes a bilateral alliance at the cost of the U.S.-Japan alliance somewhat less attractive, and South Korea’s generally more benign approach and perceptions of China’s rise relegate the potential “China threat” less of a reason to cooperate on security issues in the long term. South Korea and Japan may be able to work together to dilute U.S. control and influence within the context of a trilateral relationship and thereby enhance bargaining power vis-à-vis the United States, but close and strictly bilateral ties are less likely to increase Japanese bargaining power because a Japan-ROK alliance is a less viable alternative than the U.S.-Japan alliance.

b)  Australia. Japan-Australia relations have continued to improve over the past decade. Of major importance was the signing of a security pact between the two countries in 2007.[113] There is little doubt that both nations have much to gain from both bilateral and multilateral security cooperation, particularly because both are regional maritime powers that depend on the flow of resources through and, hence, the security of shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. However, Australia has appeared concerned that strengthened security ties with both the United States and Japan may alienate China,[114] Australia’s largest trading partner.[115] Insofar as strengthened bilateral and trilateral security cooperation poses the potential to severely strain Australia’s relations with China, one must be measured in one’s optimism about enhanced Japan-Australia security cooperation. However, the fact that the two nations already share rather strong security relations makes the possibility of a bilateral or trilateral (or, for that matter, multilateral) alliance more viable. Australia’s distance from many of the regional hotspots that directly involve Japan’s security interests render it somewhat unlikely that Australia and Japan would cooperate in dealing with exclusively Northeast Asian security threats. But Southeast Asian security concerns in particular offer opportunities for further cooperation. Australia’s relatively small size and limited military capabilities in comparison to those of the United States render the Australian option somewhat less viable as an alliance alternative. Therefore, prospects here are somewhat more positive but effects likely leave many desirables un- or under-addressed. Like the Japan-ROK alliance prospect, above, a Japan-Australia alliance may complement respective alliances with the United States and offer some dilution of U.S. control over its individual allies, but strong dependence on the United States still renders U.S. bargaining power far greater.

c)  Japan-Thailand-South Korea-Philippines-Australia-New Zealand multilateral alliance (with or without U.S. inclusion). Such a construct, either with or without U.S. involvement, is certainly possible in the long term; however, as some scholars have pointed out,[116] even if stronger regional multilateralism develops in East Asia, the U.S.-Japan alliance will remain essential to regional security long into the future. Although such a construct may be able to increase each of the allies’ bargaining power vis-à-vis the United States by diluting the amount of control the United States may have over each of the allies’ foreign policies, the viability of such a broad construct is questionable, especially from the viewpoint of its ability to resolve conflicts both internal and external to the multilateral group. From this viewpoint, the coercive power of the United States in conjunction with such a construct will remain necessary.[117] This situation may not remain the case in the long term, but until strengthened multilateralism can function properly in resolving regional conflicts, the decisive factor will most likely remain U.S. ability and will to defend its allies under either bilateral or multilateral constructs. In short, intra-alliance autonomy and bargaining power may be enhanced, but the viability of such a construct as an alliance alternative remains questionable.

Thus far, we have demonstrated that Japan currently lacks competitive, viable alliance alternatives by which it may be able to enhance both extra- and intra-alliance autonomy and thereby increase its bargaining power vis-à-vis its U.S. ally within the broader framework of the U.S.-Japan alliance. The question remains, however, why Japan may, either purposely or inadvertently, be seeking to enhance its bargaining power within the alliance. The following section seeks to address this problem by answering that Japan desires a more equal partnership with the United States. This demands that we first create a definition of intra-alliance “equality.” As will be shown, settling on a definition is difficult because one’s definition tends to depend on which side, American or Japanese, one is on in the current debate.


“Equality is a principle for alliance management, not a strategy.”[118] Such may be the case, but equality has also been elusive in the U.S.-Japan relationship. This is understandable, writes Patrick Cronin, because “[t]he alliance and security treaty were unequal from the beginning. How could it have been otherwise given the circumstances of postwar Japan?”[119] However, the shifting balance of power towards Asia has brought about an understanding that “American alliances founded on asymmetrical relationships will need to be forged anew out of a crucible of equality—even if Americans tend to define equality as responsibility sharing and Japanese tend to define equality as decision-making authority.”[120]

Herein rests the crux of the equality issue in the U.S.-Japan alliance: a fundamental difference in the understanding of equality itself. The American side tends to focus on burden sharing; however, this is problematic from the Japanese perspective not only because Japan has relatively little say in what and how burdens are shared but because Japan also has little to gain from increasing its burden.[121] From the U.S. perspective, there is little reason to grant Japan an equal say at the decision-making table if Japan is unwilling to shoulder a greater burden to help the United States uphold that order; resolving the issue of collective self-defense in a manner that stipulates that the United States and Japan are equally required to defend each other may go a long way in satisfying the United States in this regard and may win Japan a more equal position at the decision-making table with the United States. But there is no guarantee that such an agreement on collective self-defense would assure the United States that Japan would act as the Britain of the Far East in scenarios that involved anything more than the defense of the U.S. homeland (or, for that matter, that the United States would be obligated to defend Japanese forces abroad). Hence, while Japan has no reason beyond national prestige to carry a heavier security burden internationally in U.N.-mandated and directed operations, and probably even less reason to participate in U.S.-led actions (although fears of abandonment as well as national prestige might be at play), the United States, without a greater commitment from Japan to carry heavier security burdens within the framework of the U.S.-Japan alliance, has little reason to grant Japan equal decision-making power.[122]

This is the enduring problem that precludes the essential understanding of equality, and it resembles not merely a chicken-and-egg dilemma but a classic Prisoner’s dilemma. It of course makes most sense for both allies to agree to both greater burden-sharing on the part of Japan in exchange for greater decision-making equality. However, the fear of defection also exists. For the United States, giving Japan effective veto power on U.S. military actions abroad without the possibility of Japanese “boots on the ground” in the event hostilities broke out regardless of U.S. policy constrains U.S. actions even in the defense of core U.S. national interests (Japanese unilateral defection). For Japan, agreeing to put boots on the ground to defend a U.S.-led order that the United States would arguably defend regardless of Japan’s sharing of the burden risks entrapment in U.S. adventures abroad with little or no Japanese say about how Japanese soldiers are put in harm’s way (U.S. unilateral defection). The worst-case scenario is that both sides defect—the United States takes actions against Japanese interests and the Japanese refuse to support U.S. actions to defend an order from which both countries benefit—leading, potentially, to the end of the alliance.

The Prisoner’s dilemma can be escaped if, for example, both sides are willing to reciprocate each other’s goodwill actions. However, in international politics, the possibility of mutual cooperation runs the risk of unilateral defection. Another opportunity for escaping the Prisoner’s dilemma, at least in this case—although certainly not optimal for both partners—is the ability of one side to extract concessions from the other via an enhancement of one side’s bargaining power vis-à-vis the other side. And one manner in which bargaining power can be enhanced, as discussed above, is the availability of potential and viable alliance options. For Japan, China may present just such an option.


IV. China Lever, U.S. Load, Japanese Effort


The previous section highlighted potential domestic and international alternatives by which Japan may be able to enhance its intra- and extra-alliance autonomy vis-à-vis its U.S. ally. Domestic autonomy, acquired mostly through Japan’s industrial policy and evident in Japan’s economic and technological autonomy from a number of outside pressures, tends to fall short in the area of autonomous military platforms and systems; Japan’s contribution of parts and subsystems to larger joint production projects tends to be the extent of its autonomous production even though certain aspects of research and development may be carried out independently or jointly. International autonomy, which we broke into extra- and intra-alliance autonomy, demonstrated mixed results, with numerous potential but very few viable options available either within or external to the broader framework of U.S. bilateral alliances.

This section focuses on the potential and viability of China as a Japanese alliance alternative to the United States. Overall, the literature points to some potential and viability, given the amount of emphasis put on Japan’s emerging relationship with China and the Democratic Party of Japan’s (DPJ) policy platform toward the United States and China; perceptions, a key variable in deciding the viability of an alternative and the amount of leverage and bargaining power an ally may gain in negotiations with its bilateral alliance partner from enhanced relations with the potential alternative, seem to demonstrate some viability. However, recent increases in Sino-Japanese tensions due to ongoing territorial disputes have to some extent weakened the viability of China as a potential alliance alternative; over the past several years, events have demonstrated that Japan is still highly dependent on the United States and the U.S.-Japan alliance to defend Japanese territory and Japanese national interests and to deter potential aggressors. Moreover, Sino-U.S. relations also generate potential alliance alternatives for the United States which pose the possibility of further diluting any bargaining power Japan may gain via close bilateral ties with China. The result creates interesting dynamics, which will be discussed in the conclusion of this section and in the concluding section of this research.


Sino-Japanese Relations in the Post-Koizumi Era: Lever or Leave ’em?[123]


In contrast to the Koizumi era, which is often described as a low point in Sino-Japanese relations, the post-Koizumi era has been depicted as a time of (albeit tenuous) mending of fences and Japanese maneuvering towards Beijing and away from Washington. Koizumi’s insistence on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine caused strains not only with China but also South Korea. Almost immediately after Abe Shinzo was elected Japanese prime minister, Japanese and Chinese diplomats began seeking mechanisms by which a bilateral summit could take place;[124] Abe subsequently visited Beijing less than one month after assuming the position of prime minister. Abe’s visit to Beijing was his first overseas visit as Prime Minister of Japan, emphasizing the importance of the Sino-Japanese relationship. In November of the same year, then-foreign minister Aso Taro and Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing met during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Hanoi and agreed to undertake a joint study of Sino-Japanese history. Then-Chinese President Hu Jintao and Abe met later at the summit, both emphasizing a thaw in relations. A third 2006 meeting between Abe and Hu took place in December at the East Asia Summit (EAS) in the Philippines. It is also worth noting that military encounters in the East China Sea between the two nations began to decline as well in the second half of 2006,[125] although reasons for this are somewhat circumstantial. Needless to say, Sino-Japanese relations took a major turn toward improvement after Koizumi stepped down as prime minister and Abe assumed the position.

2007 saw further attempts at improving bilateral relations, with Abe meeting then-Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during the January Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three summit and a visit to Japan by Wen in April. But relations were not without strains. China’s January 11, 2007 anti-satellite (ASAT) test brought a response from Abe that nations “must use space peacefully.”[126] Meanwhile, in its 2006 Defense White Paper, China expressed concerns that “[t]he United States and Japan are strengthening their military alliance in pursuit of operational integration. Japan seeks to revise its constitution and exercise collective self-defense. Its military posture is becoming more external-oriented.”[127] Abe’s decision not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine during the Spring Festival but rather offer a gift of a sakaki tree received a “surprisingly mild response” from the Chinese Foreign Ministry even though 39 members of the Japanese Diet visited the shrine on April 23.[128] Bilateral relations in general continued to improve up until Abe’s resignation as prime minister in mid-September. Fukuda Yasuo assumed the position of prime minister on September 25 and was met by congratulations from Beijing and an expression of “hope that the reciprocal strategic relationship would continue to develop in a healthy and stable manner.”[129] During the period of political change, both sides emphasized the improvements in relations and the need to continue the trends. Throughout his prime ministerial campaign, Fukuda made it clear that visits to the Yasukuni Shrine were out of the question. In his October 1 speech to the Diet, Fukuda asserted that, with regard to China, “[W]e will establish a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, and work together to contribute to the peace and stability in Asia.”[130] As if emphasizing the importance of relations with China, Fukuda met Premier Wen at the ASEAN summit in Singapore a mere four days after a November 16 summit with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington. The opposition DPJ got into the act as well in early December when then-DPJ President Ozawa Ichiro and 46 Diet members visited Beijing. After meeting Chinese President Hu, Ozawa was quoted as saying that should the DPJ gain power it would work to “create equal partnerships with the U.S. and China.”[131] The end of thee year found Prime Minister Fukuda in Beijing, where after meeting with Premier Wen, Fukuda was quoted as saying “we have only one direction to pursue for Japan-China relations … to further reinforce ties.”[132]

Another changing of the political guard, this time Fukuda giving way to Aso Taro (September 24, 2008), marked another round of political instability in Japan. Dumplings imported from China containing insecticide poisoned dozens in Japan and strained Sino-Japanese relations early in 2008,[133] while Hu Jintao’s five-day state visit to Japan in May, the longest visit Hu paid a foreign country, demonstrated the importance of the bilateral relationship.[134] The May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province provided an opportunity to demonstrate stronger Sino-Japanese ties, and the Japanese side did provide emergency personnel and supplies; however, the Chinese side backed away from accepting supplies transported by the Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces (ASDF). The “new Fukuda doctrine” appeared not long after the Hu visit. In his speech entitled “Toward the Day when the Pacific Ocean Becomes an Inland Sea,” Fukuda outlined five priority areas for Japan: “support of ASEAN’s efforts at community building; strengthening of the Japan-U.S. alliance; establishing Japan as a peace-fostering nation; enhancing people-to-people exchanges; and addressing climate change” while also emphasizing that “it is critical that China as a major nation, develop in a stable manner, and for that sake, Japan intends to cooperate with China where it is able.”[135] Hu and Fukuda met again in July at the G8 summit in Hokkaido and in early August when Fukuda traveled to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics. This last would be the final time the two leaders would meet, however, as Fukuda announced his resignation as prime minister on September 1. Aso Taro took the helm on September 24. He would travel to Beijing in October for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and meet both Hu and Wen during his stay. ASDF Chief of Staff Tamogami Tashio’s penmanship caused a stir that eventually led to his dismissal; his award-winning essay “Was Japan and Aggressor Nation?” argued that Japan was provoked into a prolonged war with China and trapped in a war with the United States and that Japan was instead a victim and not an aggressor.[136] Aso called the views “extremely inappropriate” for an active ASDF chief and vowed to “take all possible measures to prevent a recurrence and to reeducate [SDF personnel].”[137]

Domestic political change once again marked 2009, but this time the change was more sweeping than at any time in Japan’s postwar history. For the first time in decades, not counting the hiccup in the early 1990s, the LDP fell from power after losing the August 30, 2009 Lower House elections to the DPJ. Hatoyama Yukio took over the position of prime minister on September 16. Before the DPJ took power, then-prime minister Aso (of the LDP) met several times with Chinese leaders, at one point pressuring Chinese Premier Wen to support a U.N. resolution condemning North Korea’s April 5, 2008 missile test over Japanese territory. But due to political instability and coming elections in Japan, little real progress was made. Nevertheless, the post-Koizumi period LDP prime ministers did take steps to improve Sino-Japanese relations, and Chinese leaders did reciprocate. The advent of the DPJ-led government promised to continue, and even accelerate, this trend.


The DPJ party manifesto as it appeared in August, 2009 did not emphasize foreign relations; however, what the manifesto did say about party goals for Japan’s interactions with other nations was enlightening. For starters, the emphasis was on creating “a close and equal Japan-U.S. relationship” but without a clear vision for what either “close” or “equal” meant beyond keeping the U.S.-Japan alliance as a means to “serve as the foundation of Japan’s foreign policy” and, therefore, “having developed an autonomous foreign policy strategy for Japan, determine the assignment of functions and roles between Japan and the United States, and work positively to fulfill Japan’s responsibilities in this regard.”[138] Meanwhile, the DPJ promised to “[m]ake the greatest possible effort to develop relations of mutual trust with China, South Korea, and other Asian countries.”[139] The search for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States as a stated goal was balanced, or perhaps more than balanced, by the objective of “building an East Asian Community” which included “promot[ing] the conclusion of economic partnership agreements (EPAs) and free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries of the Asia-Pacific region, as well as countries throughout the world, covering a broad range of fields including investment, labour and intellectual property.”[140] With both soon-to-be Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya and Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio emphasizing the importance of improved Sino-Japanese relations,[141] the table appeared set for major breakthroughs in the bilateral relationship that previous LDP leaders had begun working towards but were unable for one reason or other to accomplish. Meanwhile, both the Chinese and Japanese public appeared unmoved in their negative views toward each other’s countries.[142] By the end of 2009, both sides had swapped high-level visits, including a visit by then-Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping that included an audience with the Japanese emperor.[143] Importantly, polls in both Japan and China showed signs that public opinion in both countries regarding the bilateral relationship was “trending upward.”[144]

2010 started much as 2009 had left off. In late January, Prime Minister Hatoyama emphasized both the East Asian Community (EAC) concept he and his party had propagated earlier and the role the U.S.-Japan alliance would play in the development and evolution of the EAC. He also underlined the importance of Sino-Japanese bilateral relations, stating that he would continue to “work to further enhance the mutually beneficial relationship with China based on common strategic interests so as to enlarge the circle of trust in the Asia-Pacific region.”[145] Meanwhile, it was clear that the internal DPJ debate over the proper approach to Sino-U.S.-Japan relations, with some arguing for an “equally balanced . . . equilateral triangle” and others asserting that the legs of the triangle were “not the same length. The U.S.-Japan alliance is the core [of Japan’s foreign policy].”[146] The joint historical study, begun under the earlier Abe administration, concluded with progress but fell short of a complete consensus.[147] As the year progressed, several incidents between Chinese helicopters and Japanese destroyers in and around disputed territories caused protests from Japan and denials from China,[148] setting the tone for the September 7 incident between a Chinese fishing trawler and two Japanese Coast Guard ships that would poison relations for some time.[149] These incidents, however, occurred after the resignation of Hatoyama on June 2 and the ascension of Kan Naoto to the position of prime minister on June 8. The September 7 incident and ensuing dispute became a fiasco, giving the appearance that the Kan government was bowing to Chinese pressure and both sides demanding compensation. Public opinion in Japan and China reflected worsening relations, where throughout the remainder of the year polls showed consistent lack of trust between the publics of the two nations.[150]

Disaster and more political instability rocked Japan in 2011. On March 11, a major earthquake struck off the eastern coast of Japan, followed by a massive tsunami and a failure in the cooling system at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that resulted in the evacuation of nearby residents. Initially, Kan’s cabinet reshuffle in January signaled a less accommodating stance toward China, although high-level visits and resumed dialogues, not to mention China’s offering of condolences, funds for recovery, and dispatches of rescues teams after the March 11 disaster, left open hope for a recovery in bilateral ties. In the end, falling popularity due to a perceived leadership failure in the aftermath of the March 11 disaster and ensuing nuclear crisis forced Kan to resign as prime minister.[151] The DPJ’s Noda Yoshihiko replaced him on September 2. Despite improving business ties and urgings to return to normal dialogue, relations remained rather frigid. The advent of the Noda administration led to renewed calls to get the mutually beneficial strategic relationship, and in late December Noda visited Beijing. Incidents and intrusions into Japan’s claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the East China Sea continued, including another collision between a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese Coast Guard ship, but these incidents did not attain the diplomatic outcry that the September 7, 2010 incident did.[152]

Early in 2012, relations appeared stable and improving as both sides marked the 40-year anniversary since the normalization of Sino-Japan relations. Then in April then-governor of Tokyo, Ishihara Shintaro, announced that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was attempting to purchase three of the Senkaku Islands from their private owner. His intent, to “put the government in a predicament,” did just that, although probably not in the manner he was expecting.[153] Japanese citizens contributed large sums of money to purchase the islands, while activists from Hong Kong followed by activists from Japan—and then followed by anti-Japanese protests in China—brought new bilateral tensions, while Noda’s trip to China was overshadowed by Chinese President Hu’s snub of a bilateral meeting with the Japanese prime minister. The national government then announced its intention to preempt Ishihara’s plan to purchase the three islands on July 6. Several days later, three Chinese Fisheries Law Enforcement Command ships entered Japanese waters. Meanwhile, public opinion polls showed that both sides felt that relations were once again heading south.[154] The Japanese national government purchased the three islands from their private owner on September 11, drawing a firestorm from Beijing and anti-Japanese protests throughout China which also included boycotts on certain Japanese goods. Japanese exports to China fell strongly in September, while the number of Japanese travelers to China dropped considerably during the final months of the year. Celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of Sino-Japanese normalization were cancelled. Chinese intrusions into Japan’s maritime space occurred almost daily. Public opinion favored a stronger stance toward China. It was in such an environment that Noda dissolved the Lower House of the Diet in mid-November, with elections set for December 16. In the end, the LDP won a resounding victory, capturing 294 seats in the 480-seat Lower House and returning to power with the DPJ in seeming disarray. On December 26, Abe Shinzo returned as prime minister, this time riding a wave of high popularity, souring Sino-Japanese relations, and public opinion expressing a desire to get tougher on China.[155]


Almost a year into his second term as prime minister, Abe has fared little better than his DPJ predecessors in mending strained Sino-Japanese ties despite attempts early in his tenure. However, Abe was not particularly conciliatory, and his statements on history and territorial disputes as well as the visits by several members of his cabinet and 168 members of the Diet to the Yasukuni Shrine during the Spring Festival set the tone for relations.[156] In a tit-for-tat struggle, China increased its incursions into Japanese air and maritime space while Japanese officials vowed to enhance vigilance. In early February, it was reported that People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships had, on two separate occasions in the previous January, locked on fire-control radars on a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) helicopter and on a MSDF vessel.[157] Although originally denying such an incident occurred, Chinese military officials later admitted that the PLAN ships did in fact lock their radars on the Japanese targets.[158] In April, Japan and Taiwan inked a bilateral fishing agreement that allowed Taiwanese fishing boats to operate in Japan’s EEZ and provoked comments of “extreme[] concern[]” from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.[159] Meanwhile, reports showed that Sino-Japanese bilateral trade numbers continued to fall as did the number of Chinese tourists traveling to Japan and vice versa; public opinion in both countries remained low.[160]

As the year continued and Abe neared his first year in office, little changed. Incursions occured almost daily. Japanese businesses and tourism overall still smarted from low sales numbers in China although certain sectors, particularly automobiles, did see an increase. Japanese efforts at high-level bilateral dialogues failed to make headway as China demanded that Japan first acknowledge the existence of a territorial dispute while Japan stuck to its original position that no territorial dispute existed.[161] Further comments by Abe on history, Chinese scholars openly questioning Japanese sovereignty over Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands, and Chinese condemnation of Japan’s 2013 Defense White Paper only poured fuel on the fire.[162] Public opinion polls taken in both countries in early August once again reflected mutual hostility.[163]


U.S.-Japan Relations in the Post-Koizumi Era: Troubled Alliance, Essential Alliance[164]


In his first policy speech after becoming Japan’s prime minister, Abe Shinzo asserted that he would “demonstrate the ‘Japan-U.S. Alliance for Asia and the World’ even further [than in the past]” while reducing the burden on local Japanese communities and maintaining effective deterrence but also “promote diplomacy that will actively contribute to stalwart solidarity in Asia.”[165] While Abe moved to restore some form of normalcy in Sino-Japanese relations, North Korea’s October 9, 2006 nuclear test added further impetus to strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance; both Abe and then-U.S. President George W. Bush discussed North Korea, the need to accelerate ballistic missile defense (BMD), and, in an issue that would later strain U.S.-Japan relations, the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea at the November APEC summit in Hanoi, which was their first meeting.[166] It was under Abe’s stint as prime minister that then-Foreign Minister Aso Taro promoted the “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity,”[167] which focused on promoting democracy and strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance. Economic cooperation also came to the fore, with Japan supporting Bush’s Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) at the APEC summit and again at the Japan-U.S. Subcabinet Economic Dialogue (Subcab) in Tokyo in December.[168]

The alliance hit a “rough patch” in early 2007 with domestic politics playing a role in upsetting earlier good feeling. First off, Abe’s popularity at home suffered a precipitous drop due to Cabinet scandals and suffering from several domestic moves that alienated former LDP members, making Abe appear indecisive.[169] Meanwhile, an altered U.S. Congress (due to Republican defeats in both the House and Senate in the November, 2006 elections) took aim at the “comfort women” issue in response to several comments made by Abe on the issue.[170] The February 13 agreement of the six countries involved in the Six Party Talks was taken as a major shift in U.S. policy and a diplomatic defeat or Japan despite the act that it did not have any direct influence on the Japanese abductee issue.[171] Domestic problems continued to drag down Abe’s approval rating. On the foreign policy front, however, Abe’s visit to Washington in April and his meeting with Bush and their June G8 meeting in Germany were successes. But these successes could not stop the bleeding at home, and the July 29 Upper House elections saw the opposition DPJ gain control of that house. Despite a Cabinet reshuffle, Abe’s days appeared numbered. Abe and Bush would meet for a final time in August at the APEC meeting in Australia before Abe stepped down as prime minister on September 12. Fukuda took his place in late September. In his first speech to the Diet as Japan’s prim minister, Fukuda emphasized that “[m]aintaining the solid Japan-U.S. alliance and promoting international cooperation are the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy,” “[t]he Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy, and we will work to further consolidate our relationship of trust,” as well as the need to “steadily implement the realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan, based on the idea of maintaining deterrence and reducing burdens.”[172] But deadlock in the Japanese government ensued, primarily due to the controversy over the renewal of the Antiterrorism Special Measures Law (ASML), the special piece of legislation which allowed Japan’s MSDF vessels to operate in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led military operations in the Middle East. Further scandals also shook the Fukuda administration and a growing opposition from DPJ lawmakers put added heat on the Fukuda government and the LDP. Added problems over dealings with North Korea, with the abductee issue front and center, further strained the alliance. The Fukuda-Bush meeting in Washington in November eased some of the strain of the abductee case, as did Japanese participation in multilateral military exercises, agreements on a new Special Measures Agreement with regard to Japanese contributions to U.S. forces in Japan, and a successful test of the joint BMD system.[173]

Japan was finally able in early 2009 to enact the Replenishment Support Special Measures Bill, essentially an extension of the ASML, despite strong opposition in the Diet. Crisis in the alliance was avoided when, after two U.S. soldiers were suspected for crimes in Japan (two unrelated cases regarding a rape and a murder). The abductee issue once again crept its way into the limelight despite the distractions of domestic Japanese politics, with U.S. President Bush stating his intention to lift sanctions on North Korea even though the status of the abductees remained unresolved. The July G8 summit in Hokkaido, Japan, allowed for another (final) meeting between Bush and Fukuda, as the latter announced his resignation as prime minister on September 1. He was replaced by Aso Taro later the same month, but the political instability in Japan and the coming U.S. election in November left many uncertainties about the future of the relationship. Moreover, both nations were hit hard by the financial crisis, which added greater instability and uncertainty. Although the refueling mission in the Indian Ocean was extended, the period of its extension was only one year, leaving open questions of what might happen if opposition towards it grew. By October, the abductee issue came to a head with the U.S. decision to remove North Korea from the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List in order to advance progress on Six Party and North Korean denuclearization processes. This represented a back track on earlier U.S. promises not to delist North Korea without progress on the abductee issue. In the end, the problem was swept under the carpet for the time being as Aso and the LDP could not afford a conflict with Japan’s U.S. ally and the negative press it would bring: hampered by numerous scandals, an economy suffering a severe downturn, and seemingly continuous political reshuffling, a squabble with the United States would only enhance perceptions that the LDP was losing its mandate to rule.[174] The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States in November brought mixed reactions from the Japanese media. Although Obama’s selections to fill posts of critical importance U.S.-Japan relations relieved some concerns, he was in some circles viewed as too friendly towards China[175]—a claim that proved an interesting precursor for the coming year.

2009 proved a crucial year for U.S.-Japan relations. In January, the Obama administration replaced its Bush predecessor. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Tokyo in mid-February; Prime Minister Aso visited Washington soon thereafter. With both nations reeling from the economic downturn and Aso under intense domestic pressure, however, the situation was less than ideal. Aso was able to hold off new elections for a time, but his days as prime minister, as well as the days of the LDP in power, were numbered. On August 30, the DPJ’s crushing victory in the Lower House elections led to the advent off the Hatoyama administration, which took office on September 16. The alliance functioned well during North Korean provocations in April (a missile test that flew over Japanese territory) and May (a nuclear test). In a somewhat negative twist, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced it would be closing down the production line of Lockheed Martin’s F-22 stealth fighter; U.S. law prohibits the sale of the F-22 to foreign countries despite Japanese desires to purchase the jet.[176]


Immediately after taking office, the Hatoyama government released its “Basic Policies,” which outlined “the role that Japan can play between the two great powers of United States and China” and did not mention the alliance once.[177] In his first speech to the Japanese Diet, Hatoyama stressed the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance but also maintained that “[t]he foundation for this [peaceful Asia-Pacific region] will be a close and equal Japan-US alliance.” Hatoyama went on to outline his vision for the alliance and also what he meant by “equal”:


This “equal” relationship is one in which the Japanese side too can actively make proposals and cooperate on the role that the Japan-US alliance can play for the sake of global peace and security and on concrete guidelines for action. I will deepen the multi-layered Japan-US alliance in which Japan and the US coordinate and cooperate with each other, not just on bilateral matters but also for the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and in order to overcome global challenges including climate change and the creation of a world without nuclear weapons. Within this relationship of trust, we will also frankly discuss with each other the outstanding issues between the two countries.


Among these “outstanding issues” between the United States and Japan was “the realignment of US forces in Japan,” an issue that was to prove a frustration to both the Obama administration and this and subsequent DPJ administrations and play a direct role in Haytoyama’s downfall.[178] As mentioned above, the DPJ put a great deal of its (somewhat scant) foreign policy emphasis on the creation of an EAC and the role the U.S.-Japan alliance would play as Japan’s platform from which to achieve such a vision. The DPJ administration soon announced it would allow legislation permitting refueling operations in the Indian Ocean to expire; they did so in January, 2010. Obama and Hatoyama met in Tokyo in November amidst Japanese domestic debate over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, putting the 2006 agreement[179] at risk. The base controversy brought into question the ability of the DPJ to maintain the U.S.-Japan alliance. Meanwhile, although stresses appeared in the alliance, public opinion between the two countries remained rather positive.[180]

The alliance appeared shaken in early 2010. Hatoyama and the DPJ suffered from decreasing public support over scandals and a seeming inability to follow through on campaign proposals. Amidst this backdrop, and to some degree causing it, the Futenma base issue continued to hound both governments, with the Hatoyama government appearing indecisive and dishonest. With a great deal of damage done in the bilateral relationship and Hatoyama appearing increasingly incompetent[181] and unable to deal with Washington,[182] Hatoyama resigned as prime minister on June 2 and was replaced by Kan on the 8th of the same month. Kan made immediate attempts to change the tone of the dialogue with the United States, stating that with regard to Futenma, the Japanese government “ha[s] reached an agreement with the United States [in 2006], and we must proceed on the basis of this accord”[183] while also “repeatedly referring to the US-Japan alliance as the axis or cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy.”[184] By September, strains in Japan’s ruling coalition as the DPJ and company lost their majority in the Upper House. But the collision between a Chinese fishing trawler and Japanese Coast Guard ships, mentioned above, proved “a big wake-up call for the alliance,” setting forth a flurry of diplomatic activity that led to a strengthening off alliance commitments.[185] This was followed by further coordination (along with South Korea) after the North Korean shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island on November 23. Overall, opinion polls in Japan and the United States showed that although the bilateral relationship was strained, both publics also held the alliance in high regard (particularly after the regional crises late in the year).[186]

A further strengthening of the U.S.-Japan alliance occurred in early 2011—sadly, amidst the tragedy of the March 11 triple disaster. The quick U.S. response to the disasters demonstrated the solidarity of the alliance despite the tensions the prior year and a half revealed. Operation Tomodachi, Japanese for “friend,” included joint search-and-rescue and refueling efforts; the United States sent emergency response units, an aircraft carrier strike group, and over 16,000 U.S. military personnel to assist in humanitarian relief. While the response displayed the strength of the alliance, it also doomed Kan, who resigned in late August. He was replaced by Noda on September 2. Noda proved willing to move bilateral relations along. His administration announced that Japan’s selection for its next-generation fighter would be the F-35. It relaxed the three arms export principles. And, perhaps of the greatest long-term importance, his administration announced Japan’s intention to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). All three moves were welcomed in Washington.

Noda finally appeared to get the alliance on firm footing and earned an official visit to Washington in April 2012, the first such visit for a DPJ prime minister. The spring of the same year brought with it a great deal of consultation and cooperation on a plethora of bilateral, regional, and global diplomatic issues giving the appearance that the Noda and Obama governments had gotten ties on the right track.[187] But it was not to last long, as Noda faced stiffening opposition and faltering popularity. Japanese concerns about the safety of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft flared up as the deployment to Japan of twelve more of the aircraft was scheduled for that year. Tensions between Japan and South Korea also came to the fore, damaging hopes for closer U.S.-Japan-Korea trilateral cooperation on regional security concerns, particularly as relates to the Korean Peninsula.[188] Domestic politics in both countries began to take precedent over bilateral relations, with the U.S. election in November and the Japanese election in December. Obama won reelection in the United States, but the defeat of the DPJ in the Japanese Lower House elections spelled doom for Noda and his associates. A new period of transition—and hopefully one giving some semblance of stability—was about to begin.

Throughout the period just discussed, the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute poisoned relations between China and successive DPJ administrations. Abe’s return as prime minister did little to ease those tensions, but the tensions themselves appear to have strengthened bilateral ties. Abe continued in Noda’s footsteps by pushing for Japan’s entry into the TPP. Abe has also pushed to strengthen Japan’s cooperation with U.S. forces as well as strengthen Japan’s own indigenous capabilities and increasing defense spending.[189] Meanwhile, as Japanese exports to China have slumped,[190] Japan’s exports to the United States have increased markedly.[191] Although Abe’s main focus has been on jumpstarting Japan’s economy, which has been in the doldrums for two decades, his high approval ratings almost one year into the job suggest that a new period of political stability may be on the horizon in Japan and the U.S.-Japan alliance. Abe’s willingness to tackle tough problems (and cause some himself) and apparent willingness to contribute more to Japan’s and the Asia-Pacific’s security have thus far been welcomed in Washington.


The purpose of this section has been to compare Sino-Japan and U.S.-Japan relations in the post-Koizumi era. It has not been exhaustive, but it has been representative. Ups and downs have occurred in both sets of bilateral relations. What emerges appears to be an inverse relationship: when relations between Japan and China appear to improve, U.S.-Japan relations appear less stable and more strained; the opposite also appears true, i.e., when U.S.-Japan relations have appeared strong, Sino-Japan relations have appeared strained. The dynamics at work here seem different from those of simply finding a middle position for Japan. Readjustments are fraught with risk and potential strains, but finding an acceptable middle ground—i.e., finding a “Goldilocks” position—has thus far eluded Japanese politicians. To carry the metaphor further, the Hatoyama administration appeared “too hot” towards China and “too cold” towards the United States; the damage done during his administration carried into that of his successors even though territorial disputes and disasters strengthened the U.S.-Japan partnership somewhat at the expense of Japan’s relations with China. Meanwhile, all of Japan’s post-Koizumi prime ministers have continued to reiterate the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance and bilateral partnership to Japan’s security and overall wellbeing. Relations with China remain among the most important, but Japan’s relationship with the United States remains, if statements of leaders and opinion polls tell the truth, of utmost importance. Koizumi’s immediate LDP successors attempted to undo the damage done to ties with China, an important relationship, but they hardly undermined the U.S.-Japan relationship. And if anything else, Abe has appeared “quite hot” towards the United States and “quite cold” towards China—sentiments Chinese leaders have reciprocated. It is too early to tell exactly what Abe’s term as prime minister may portend for the future of U.S.-Japan and Sino-Japan relations, and the future is too uncertain to attempt to predict what his successors, whether DPJ, LDP, some other political party, or some coalition government may do. Japan may yet have its Goldilocks, but until it does, ups and downs will likely continue in both sets of bilateral relations—and, likely, the inverse relationship between those two sets of relations will continue to some degree. What has yet to materialize is a stable trilateral relationship with Japan between China and the United States; if anything, such a relationship appears about as likely today as it did during the time of Koizumi. Several scholars referred to above have posited that while the U.S.-Japan alliance remains the bedrock of Japan’s security and perhaps even the springboard from which it can confidently engage China, Japan is also slowly readjusting its foreign policy in ways that risk jeopardizing the very bedrock or springboard from which it seeks its new, adjusted role. Yet the reason for Japan’s willingness to potentially jeopardize that relationship has yet, in my opinion, to be satisfactorily addressed.


V. By Way of Conclusion


This research has posited that Japan’s seeming willingness to risk its relationship with the United States in order to engender better relations with the PRC, which has often been called “hedging” or a “dual hedge,” is actually an attempt by Japanese leaders to create either a viable alliance alternative or the appearance of creating a potential viable alliance alternative in order to enhance Japan’s bargaining position vis-à-vis Japan’s U.S. ally within the framework of their bilateral alliance. Past attempts and other alternatives to generate viable alternatives have, for the most part, proven relatively lackluster. China, a rising power with never before seen potential and whose intentions are debatable—and debated—provides just such a potential alternative should Japan be able to maneuver itself diplomatically into a position by which to use that potential lever. The reasons for Japan to seek such a relationship are many—and indeed this research, instead of contradicting the many reasons put forth by other scholars for Japan’s seeking of this relationship, pays credence to their work and, rather, subsumes it under, it is hoped, a more manageable conceptual framework—but the overall guiding motivation appears, tentatively, to be a Japanese desire to achieve a more equal relationship with its U.S. ally. Japanese leaders, as pragmatists who understand the costs of unilateral Japanese rearmament (diplomatic, domestic-political, and financial) seek other means by which to enhance Japan’s intra-alliance bargaining power. To do enhance this bargaining power, Japan needs a potential, viable, external alternative; China may very well be this, or at least one of, these alternatives.

Again, outcomes may be completely, or at least partially, out of touch with intentions. If they are, it would not disprove this research’s central thesis; for, as Lowell Dittmer has written, “Any international game is highly complex but not highly formalized; indeed, the players may not even be conscious that they are playing a game . . . . Yet, for as long as they remain in the situation described by the game, their foreign policy options will to some degree be circumscribed by its constraints and opportunities.”[192] Even if Japanese leaders are aware of the game and comprehend the manner in which relations with China can be used to enhance Japan’s alliance bargaining position vis-à-vis the United States, it is highly unlikely that Japanese leaders would state this recognition in public, little less admit in public that using these relations in this way was their intent all along. Indeed, as Henry Kissinger writes, “Triangular diplomacy, to be effective, . . . must avoid the impression that one is ‘using’ either of the contenders against the other; otherwise, one becomes vulnerable to retaliation and blackmail.”[193] However, the private statements of Japanese leaders and statesmen may reveal some clues as to whether or not they recognize and intend this possibility. Here is where a weakness of the present research reveals itself—i.e., the lack of private statements of and interviews with Japanese leaders and statesmen on this topic—and a possibility to further test and strengthen the assertions made here.[194]

Another path for future research would entail a detailed analysis of the formation of an EAC or an Asia-Pacific-style NATO organization may also enhance Japan’s bilateral bargaining power as well as the bargaining power of other states and U.S. allies in the region. Still another direction may be related to Dittmer’s research, cited above—that is, a triangular conceptualization of Sino-U.S.-Japan relations that explores the mutual leveraging tactics and methods of enhancing bargaining power within a triangular relationship, this time taking into account the act that two of the corners of the triangle are formal allies.[195]

This research presents several directions for future exploration, but one thing appears certain: the form and functions of the U.S.-Japan alliance is fluid and will continue to be so. Whether recent developments which have amplified Japan’s dependence on the United States and the alliance will remain and cause similar effects or whether readjustment is likely that will grant Japan enhanced autonomy, possibly even to the point at which the U.S.-Japan is either unilaterally or mutually dissolved, will occur, the Japanese desire for a relationship with the United States on more equal terms will likely continue to be an important, if not the main, driver of U.S.-Japan relations in the future.

[1] For relevant works in this debate, see, inter alia, Kent E. Calder, “Review: Japanese Foreign Economic Policy Formation: Explaining the Reactive State,” World Politics, 40: 4 (July, 1988), pp. 517-41; Peter J. Katzenstein, “Japan, Switzerland of the Far East?” in Takahashi Inoguchi and Daniel I. Okimoto, eds., The Political Economy of Japan, vol. 2, The Changing International Context (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), pp. 275-304; Edward J. Lincoln, Japan’s New Global Role (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1993); Gerald L. Curtis, ed., Japan’s Foreign Policy After the Cold War: Coping with Change (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1993); Ming Wan, “Spending Strategies in World Politics: How Japan Has Used Its Economic Power in the Past Decade,” International Studies Quarterly, 39: 1 (March, 1995), pp. 85-108; Keiko Hirata, “Japan as a Reactive State? Analyzing the Case of Japan-Vietnam Relations,” Japanese Studies, 18: 2 (1998), pp. 135-52; Keiko Hirata, “Cautious Proactivism and Reluctant Reactivism: Analyzing Japan’s Foreign Policy toward Indochina,” in Akitoshi Miyashita and Yoichiro Sato, eds., Japanese Foreign Policy in Asia and the Pacific: Domestic Interests, American Pressure, and Regional Integration (New York: Palgrave, 2001), pp. 75-100; David Potter and Sudo Sueo, “Japanese Foreign Policy: No Longer Reactive?” Political Studies Review, 1: 3 (Sept., 2003), pp. 317-32; David Arase, “Japan, the Active State?: Security Policy after 9/11,” Asian Survey, 47: 4 (July-Aug., 2007), pp. 560-83; Thomas U. Berger, Mike Mochizuki, and Jitsuo Tsuchiyama, eds., Japan in International Politics: The Foreign Policies of an Adaptive State (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2007); and James Manicom, “Japan’s Ocean Policy: Still the Reactive State?” Pacific Affairs, 83: 2 (June, 2010), pp. 307-26. See also Kent E. Calder, “Japan as a Post-Reactive State?” Orbis, 47: 4 (Fall, 2003), pp. 605-616.

[2] In the case of the Three Non-nuclear Principles, it can be argued that the principles themselves were in some ways a product of the U.S. policy of extended deterrence and, therefore, Japan did not need for this reason, regardless of domestic political constraints, its own nuclear deterrent. The examples of Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia add further weight to this argument, although it is most probable that both external and internal dynamics were at play in Japan’s case; for a discussion, see Richard C. Bush, The U.S. Policy of Extended Deterrence in East Asia: History, Current Views, and Implications, Brookings Arms Control Series, 5 (Feb., 2011), available at http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2011/2/arms%20control%20bush/02_arms_control_bush.pdf.

[3] Japan and North Korea conducted lengthy—and, in the end, fruitless—negotiations in the hope of establishing diplomatic relations. In 2002 and again in 2004, Japanese prime minister Koizumi made high-profile visits to Pyongyang, but the establishment of diplomatic relations remains a task or future leaders.

[4] On the alliance security dilemma, see Glenn H. Snyder, “The Security Dilemma in Alliance Politics,” World Politics, 36: 4 (July, 1984), pp. 461-95.

[5] See Narushige Michishita and Richard J. Samuels, “Hugging and Hedging: Japanese Grand Strategy in the Twenty-First Century,” in Henry R. Nau and Deepa M. Ollapally, eds., Worldviews of Aspiring Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in China, India, Iran, Japan, and Russia (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 146-80 (quoted on p. 153).

[6] However, as I will demonstrate below, this is one major risk Japan runs by utilizing such a strategy, and the risk, moreover, is very real and can be extremely costly.

[7] The fourth section as deals with Japan’s strategy will focus on cases from the post-Koizumi era. This time period has been selected for two reasons. First, space constraints demand that I choose someplace to start. However, second, I do not make this break completely arbitrarily, for, as Michishita and Samuels write, “Each of Japan’s post-Koizumi prime ministers—starting with the surprisingly accommodating Abe Shinzo—acted like Goldilocks [i.e., looking for “just right” positions between China and the United States; see below] by deferring to China on particularly irritating displays of Japanese nationalism . . . . When power was transferred to the DPJ [Democratic Party of Japan] in 2009, Japan’s Goldilocks behavior accelerated, receiving considerably more attention in the press and generating predictable, and therefore avoidable, frictions with Washington”; Michishita and Samuels, “Hugging and Hedging,” pp. 153-4.

[8] See, among others, Christopher Layne, “The Unipolar Illusion: Why New Great Powers Will Rise,” International Security, 17: 4 (Spring, 1993), pp. 5-51; Aaron L. Friedberg, “Ripe for Rivalry: Prospects for Peace in a Multipolar Asia,” International Security, 18: 3 (Winter, 1993-94), pp. 5-33; Richard K. Betts, “Wealth, Power, and Instability: East Asia and the United States after the Cold War,” International Security, 18: 3 (Winter, 1993-94), pp. 34-77; Avery Goldstein, Great Expectations: Interpreting China’s Arrival,” International Security, 22: 3 (Winter, 1997-98), pp. 36-73; Aaron L. Friedberg, “The Struggle for Mastery in Asia,” Commentary, 110: 4 (Nov., 2000), pp. 17-26; Thomas J. Christensen, “Posing Problems without Catching Up: China’s Rise and Challenges for U.S. Security Policy,” International Security, 25: 4 (Spring, 2001), pp. 5-40; and Aaron L. Friedberg, A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011). For a more optimistic interpretation, see David C. Kang, “Getting Asia Wrong: The Need for New Analytical Frameworks,” International Security, 27: 4 (Spring, 2003), pp. 57-85. For excellent summaries of the ongoing debate, see Aaron L. Friedberg, “The Future of U.S.-China Relations: Is Conflict Inevitable?” International Security, 30: 2 (Fall, 2005), pp. 7-45; and Thomas J. Christensen, “Fostering Stability or Creating a Monster? The Rise of China and U.S. Policy toward East Asia,” International Security, 31: 1 (Summer, 2006), pp. 81-126.

[9] See Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979); see also David Shambaugh, ed., Power Shift: China and Asia’s New Dynamics (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005).

[10] See, for instance, Alastair Iain Johnston, “Is China a Status Quo Power?” International Security, 27: 4 (Spring, 2003), pp. 5-56; Friedberg, “The Future of U.S.-China Relations”; and Christensen, “Fostering Stability or Creating a Monster?”

[11] Friedberg, “Ripe for Rivalry”; see also Hillary Clinton, “America’s Pacific Century,” Foreign Policy (Nov., 2011), available at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/11/americas_pacific_century.

[12] For the balancing-bandwagoning dichotomy, see Waltz, Theory of International Politics, esp. p. 126; see also Stephen M. Walt, The Origins of Alliances (Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987), esp. ch. 2.

[13] For a discussion and critique of neo-/structural realism, see Robert O. Keohane, ed., Neorealism and Its Critics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986); see also David A. Baldwin, ed., Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993). To be fair, no neo-/structural realist makes the claim that structure alone determines actor behavior, nor did Waltz intend, in writing Theory of International Politics, to use the structure of the international system alone to determine and predict state activity; rather, he claims his intentions as a desire to “[s]how how one can distinguish unit-level from structural elements and then make connections between them” and to “[d]emonstrate the inadequacy of the prevalent inside-out pattern of thinking that ha[d] dominated the study of international politics [prior to his writing of Theory of International Politics]”; see Waltz, “Reflections on Theory of International Politics: A Response to My Critics,” in Keohane, ed., Neorealism and Its Critics, quoted on p. 322; see also Waltz, Theory of International Politics, pp. 65, 69, and 72. The point here is that neo-/structural realists cannot account, due to the limitations and parsimony of their theory, for particular choices made by particular actors in particular situations; this is in line with their theoretical construct. Clearly, a theory that is somewhat less parsimonious than neo-/structural realism is needed to account for systemic and structural factors as well as unit-level factors in order to explain state behavior not only in East Asia but in general. I find the theoretical construct that accomplishes this and does so quite admirably is neoclassical realism (see below). Although, as mentioned, neoclassical realism is less parsimonious than neo-/structural realism, it, in my estimate, more than makes up for this perceived shortcoming by possessing a higher degree of explanatory power with regard to general outcomes, actor choices, and actor behavior within systemic constraints and opportunities. In this sense, I side with Brian Rathbun in arguing that neoclassical realism is a justified extension of neo-/structural realist theory; see Rathbun, “A Rose by Any other Name: Neoclassical Realism as the Logical and Necessary Extension of Structural Realism,” Security Studies, 17: 2 (2008), pp. 294-321.

[14] Waltz, Theory of International Politics, pp. 72 and 65, respectively. For the classic statement on levels of analysis in international politics, see Kenneth N. Waltz, Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959 [1954]).

[15] See Gideon Rose, “Review: Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,” World Politics, 51: 1 (Oct., 1998), pp. 144-72. See also, inter alia, Jeffery W. Taliaferro, “Security Seeking under Anarchy: Defensive Realism Revisited,” International Security, 25: 3 (Winter, 2000-01), pp. 128-61; Randall L. Schweller, “The Progressiveness of Neoclassical Realism,” in Colin Elman and Miriam Fendius Elman, eds., Progress in International Relations Theory: Appraising the Field (Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 2003), pp. 311-47; Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, “State Building for Future Wars: Neoclassical Realism and the Resource-Extractive State,” Security Studies, 15: 3 (July-Sept., 2006), pp. 464-95; Rathbun, “A Rose by Any Other Name”; and Steven E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman, and Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, eds., Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

[16] See Waltz, Theory of International Politics.

[17] See Rose, “Review: Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy.”

[18] Ibid., p. 152.

[19] Ibid.

[20] See, for example, Michael Mastanduno, David A. Lake, and G. John Ikenberry, “Toward a Realist Theory of State Action,” International Studies Quarterly, 33: 4 (Dec., 1989), esp. pp. 461-71; Rose, “Review: Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,” pp. 147, 161-5; and Taliaferro, “State Building for Future Wars.”

[21] Rathbun, “A Rose by Any Other Name.”

[22] See Waltz, Man, the State, and War.

[23] Waltz, Theory of International Politics, pp. 124-8; for internal and external balancing, see ibid., pp. 118 and 168.

[24] Walt, The Origins of Alliances, p. 21.

[25] Ibid., pp. 22-8. Perceptions play an important part in Rose’s classification of neoclassical realism; see Rose, “Review: Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,” esp. pp. 147, 150, 152, and 157-61. Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976) is the seminal work on the role of perceptions in international politics and foreign policy decision making.

[26] On the abandonment-entrapment dilemma, see Michael Mandelbaum, The Nuclear Revolution: International Politics Before and After Hiroshima (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), ch. 6. A more systematic treatment of the so-called alliance security dilemma can be found in Glenn H. Snyder, “The Security Dilemma in Alliance Politics”; see also Glenn H. Snyder, Alliance Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997), esp. pp. 180-99.

[27] It should be noted, however, that Snyder, for example, deals with multipolar systemic structure, arguing that bipolarity tends to reduce concerns of abandonment and extrapment at least relative to multipolar orders; see Snyder, Alliance Politics. Walt’s analysis, although not a study of abandonment-entrapment dynamics per se, muddies the water a bit, however, given the amount of switching sides that takes place with regard to states he studies; Walt, however, chalks this up to perceptions of threat mostly attributed to states other than the two superpowers. However, the switching of sides that took place did appear to have a psychological affect on the states concerned, including the superpowers, at least arguably analogous to abandonment fears (domino effect, bandwagoning with one’s opponent) despite the fact that Walt argues that balancing occurs much more often than bandwagoning. See Walt, The Origins of Alliances. The point here is that psychological factors are at play throughout regardless of polarity even though, as Snyder contends, abandonment-entrapment fears are more severe under conditions of multipolarity.

[28] Rose, “Review: Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,” p. 147.

[29] See Victor D. Cha, Alignment Despite Antagonism: The U.S.-Korea-Japan Security Triangle (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999); see also Cha, “Abandonment, Entrapment, and Neoclassical Realism in Asia: The United States, Japan, and Korea,” International Studies Quarterly, 44: 2 (June, 2000), pp. 261-91.

[30] See Victor D. Cha, “Powerplay: Origins of the U.S. Alliance System in Asia,” International Security, 34: 3 (Winter, 2009-10), pp. 158-96 (quoted on pp. 182 and 158, respectively).

[31] Ibid.

[32] See Snyder, Alliance Politics, p. 31.

[33] Ibid., p. 37.

[34] Ibid., pp. 180-1.

[35] Ibid., p. 37.

[36] Ibid., pp. 177-80.

[37] Michael J. Green, Arming Japan: Defense Production, Alliance Politics, and the Postwar Search for Autonomy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), p. 5 (emphasis in original). Similarly, Nigel Thalakada writes that “maintaining a close relationship with the United States remains a vital prerequisite for a more ‘independent’ Japanese foreign policy that does not give other Asian countries cause for concern”; Nigel R. Thalakada, Unipolarity and the Evolution of America’s Cold War Alliances (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012), p. 89.

[38] Snyder asserts that mutual dependence in an alliance can be negative: “Interdependence may be symmetrical or asymmetrical and high or low. When allies are asymmetrically dependent, the least dependent one, ceteris paribus, will have the most influence. When they are about equally dependent, they may have trouble influencing each other. When mutual dependence is high, the alliance will be cohesive; when it is low, the alliance will be fragile”; Snyder, Alliance Politics, p. 31,

[39] Green, Arming Japan; for other examples, see the discussion in Michael J. Green and Richard J. Samuels, “Recalculating Autonomy: Japan’s Choices in the New World Order,” The National Bureau of Asian Research, NBR Analysis, 5: 4 (1994), available at http://www.nbar.org/publications/analysis/pdf/vol5no4.pdf.

[40] Cha, “Powerplay.”

[41] See f.n. 1, above, for this debate.

[42] See f.n. 39, above.

[43] This is not to say that Japan’s relationship with Iran is not an obstacle. Richard Samuels posits that Japan’s relationship with Iran is more problematic for the U.S.-Japan alliance than most appreciate; see Samuels, Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2007), pp. 153-5.

[44] See, for example, Richard J. Samuels, “Japan’s Goldilocks Strategy,” Washington Quarterly, 29: 4 (Autumn, 2006), pp. 113-4; Samuels, Securing Japan, pp. 177-8; Tomohito Shinoda, “Costs and Benefits of the U.S.-Japan Alliance from the Japanese Perspective,” in Takahashi Inoguchi, G. John Ikenberry, and Yoichiro Sato, eds., The U.S.-Japan Security Alliance: Regional Multilateralism (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011), pp. 13-29; and Thalakada, Unipolarity and the Evolution of America’s Cold War Alliances, esp. pp. 68-84. This is not to say that Japanese entrapment fears do not exist in the post-Cold War alliance or that abandonment fears did not exist during the Cold War period. Victor Cha, for example, points out that abandonment fears existed particularly during the period immediately following the so-called Guam Doctrine threatened a U.S. drawdown in Asia. As Cha argues, this period witnessed symmetrical fears between the ROK and Japan and, hence, greater cooperation; see Cha, Cha, “Abandonment, Entrapment, and Neoclassical Realism in Asia,” pp. 273-6.

[45] For example, James Schoff has posited that Japanese choices for strengthening deterrence fall within four basic categories: “1) greater security independence from the United States; 2) support for the alliance but hedge actively against the potential for U.S. abandonment (hedging for substance); 3) support for hedging, but primarily as a means to deter abandonment [by the United States] (hedging for show); and 4) greater military cooperation with the United States as a way to avoid abandonment (the ‘indispensible ally’ argument)”; see Schoff, Realigning Priorities: The U.S.-Japan Alliance & the Future of Extended Deterrence, Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (March, 2009), p. x, available at http://www.ifpa.org/pdf/RealignPriorities.pdf. See also ibid., p. 33. For Michishita and Samuels, the Japanese need to hedge against the abandonment-entrapment is one of several elements in the formation of Japan’s evolving grand strategy; see Michishita and Samuels, “Hugging and Hedging”; see also Samuels, “Japan’s Goldilocks Strategy” and Samuels, Securing Japan. For the other elements delineated by Samuels and Michishita and Samuels (respectively), see below.

[46] Although not dealing with Japan’s “hedge,” Thomas Christensen describes this dual nature in great detail as it pertains to thinking on U.S. strategy toward China; see Christensen, “Fostering Stability or Creating a Monster?”

[47] Mike M. Mochizuki, “Dealing with a Rising China,” in Berger, Mochizuki, and Tsuchiyama, eds., Japan in International Politics, pp. 229-55 (quoted on pp. 251 and 252, respectively). For a discussion of the potential benefits and dangers of this interpretation of hedging as its applies to the Sino-U.S. relationship, see Evan S. Medeiros, “Strategic Hedging and the Future of Asia-Pacific Stability,” Washington Quarterly, 29: 1 (Winter, 2005-06), pp. 145-67.

[48] For the concept of comprehensive security, see J.W.M. Chapman, R. Drifte, and I.T.M. Gow, Japan’s Quest for Comprehensive Security: Defence – Diplomacy – Dependence (London: Frances Pinter, 1983).

[49] For a discussion of Japanese mercantilism, see Eric Heginbotham and Richard J. Samuels, “Mercantile Realism and Japanese Foreign Policy,” International Security, 22: 4 (Spring, 1998), pp. 171-203.

[50] See Eric Heginbotham and Richard J. Samuels, “Japan’s Dual Hedge,” Foreign Affairs, 81: 5 (Sept.-Oct., 2002), pp. 110-21. See also Schoff, Realigning Priorities, pp. 15-9. Schoff’s argument is that this minimal (and Schoff considers this mutual lack of) support or provision for each other’s concerns is due to a divergence in goals and priorities as well as long term financial and political constraints; needless to say, Schoff believes this problematic and must be solved if deterrence is to be enhanced and the alliance is to survive in the long term.

[51] Heginbotham and Samuels, “Japan’s Dual Hedge,” esp. pp. 118-20 (quoted on p. 118).

[52] Michishita and Samuels, “Hugging and Hedging,” p. 153. Heginbotham and Samuels recount that some Japanese politicians and bureaucrats see the United States as an economic rival while China is seen as an economic partner; Heginbotham and Samuels, “Japan’s Dual Hedge,” p. 119.

[53] Ibid., p. 169.

[54] Ibid., pp. 158-9 (quoted on p. 159).

[55] Edward J. Lincoln, however, is not as sublime on the formation of a regional economic bloc with either Japan or China as regional leader, at least for the time being. See Lincoln, East Asian Economic Regionalism (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2004), esp. ch. 9.

[56] Michishita and Samuels, “Hugging and Hedging,” p. 153.

[57] See, for example, Masahiro Matsumura, “The Japanese State Identity as a Grand Strategic Imperative,” The Brookings Institution, Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies (May, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2008/5/japan%20matsumura/05_japan_matsumura.pdf.

[58] Michishita and Samuels, “Hugging and Hedging,” pp. 147 and 172-3 (quoted on p. 147).

[59] Matsumura, “The Japanese State Identity as a Grand Strategic Imperative,” p. 2. For an overall appraisal of the need for a reformulation of U.S. policy towards Asia, see William H. Overholt, Asia, America, and the Transformation of Geopolitics (New York: Cambridge University Press [and the RAND Corporation], 2008).

[60] For an account of the external forces shaping Japan’s domestic institutions and the responses of these domestic institutions to external pressures, see Kenneth B. Pyle, Japan Rising: The Resurgence of Japanese Power and Purpose (New York: The Century Foundation [Public Affairs], 2007).

Richard Samuels’s “inside-out” approach is to some extent a complement to Pyle’s more strongly “outside-in” approach; see Samuels, Securing Japan. (Both Pyle and Samuels deal with both international and domestic factors and their effects on Japanese foreign policy making and implementation, and so my characterization is comparative and not absolute.)

[61] Michael J. Green, Japan’s Reluctant Realism: Foreign Policy Challenges in an Era of Uncertain Power (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2001), pp. 4-9 (quoted on pp. 4, 6, and 8, respectively).

[62] Samuels, Securing Japan, quoted on pp. 198, and 208, respectively.

[63] Goh, “Understanding ‘Hedging’ in Asia-Pacific Security,” PacNet #43, The Center for Strategic & International Studies (Aug. 31, 2006), p. 1, available at http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/pac0643.pdf.

[64] Ibid. See also Evelyn Goh, Meeting the China Challenge: The U.S. in Southeast Asian Regional Security Strategies, Policy Studies 16 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, 2005), p. viii, available at http://www.eastwestcenter.org/sites/default/files/private/PS016.pdf.

[65] Goh, “Understanding ‘Hedging’ in Asia-Pacific Security,” p. 2.

[66] Ibid.

[67] In 2006 (or 2005, depending on which article one is referring), when Goh wrote her definition, Japan’s economy was still larger than China’s in nominal GDP terms and it’s Self-Defense Forces were among the most powerful military forces in the East Asian region. If the U.S.-Japan alliance has been viewed as outright containment of China—see, for example, Xinbo Wu, “The End of the Silver Lining: A Chinese View of the U.S.-Japan Alliance,” Washington Quarterly, 29: 1 (Winter, 2005-06), pp. 119-30—then one would be hard pressed to explain why U.S. “hedging” is mere rhetoric while Japan’s strategy adheres to the definition provided (see f.n. 64, above).

In a later article, Goh characterizes Japan as a third-tier power in her construction of an East Asian hierarchical order because it “lacks a perceived regional leadership strategy and independence from the United States.” While this particular work clarifies to some extent her definition and operationalization of “hedging,” it proves even more problematic for the reasons stated above. Moreover, it leaves unanswered the question as to whether or not Japan, a third-tier power, can hedge. It would seem that, based on this latter analysis, Japan is a nation to be hedged and is not a hedger. See Evelyn Goh, “Great Powers and Hierarchical Order in Southeast Asia: Analyzing Regional Security Strategies,” International Security, 32: 3 (Winter, 2007-08), pp. 113-57 (quoted on p. 152; the relevant references to Japan being hedged by Southeast Asian states instead of itself acting as a hedger can be found on pp. 121, 124, 125-6, 128, 129-30, 140-1, 142, 143, 144, and 156).

[68] Past scholarly works that have, to one extent or another, dealt with Japan’s search for a more equal partnership with the United States include Ralph A. Cossa, ed., Restructuring the U.S.-Japan Alliance: Toward a More Equal Partnership (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1997); Mike M. Mochizuki, ed., Toward a True Alliance: Restructuring U.S.-Japan Security Relations (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Press, 1997); and Matake Kamiya, “Reforming the U.S.-Japan Alliance: What Should be Done?” in Takahashi Inoguchi and G. John Ikenberry, eds., Reinventing the Alliance: U.S.-Japan Security Partnership in an Era of Change (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003), pp. 91-116 (esp. pp. 108-11).

[69] See f.n. 45, above. It should also be noted, as Henry Kissinger writes, that, in line with neoclassical realism, “The bargaining position of a country depends on the options it is perceived to have”; Kissinger, On Diplomacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 126 (emphasis added).

[70] For a similar argument, see Heginbotham and Samuels, “Japan’s Dual Hedge,” et passim.

[71] On kokusanka, see especially Green, Arming Japan.

[72] Cha, “Powerplay.”

[73] There are, of course, many risks involved in such a construct, most of which have to do with the perceptions of Japanese intent in both Beijing and Washington. And, to be sure, part of this research’s argument is that up to this point many scholars listed thus far have either located only certain aspects of Japan’s overall strategy or (and these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive) misperceived Japan’s intentions with regard to its growing relationship with China and the effects that may have on its alliance with the United States. No framework that this author has encountered thus far has been able to reconcile Japanese interest in maintaining its alliance with the United States while simultaneously, in the words of Michishita and Samuels, both “Adjusting the Distance from the United States” and “Closing the Distance with China.” Michishita and Samuels recognize the that Japan is and must continue “Coping with Emerging Contradictions,” but the analyses provided thus far have yet to explain satisfactorily, at least in this author’s mind, why, beyond several disparate factors, why Japan would seek to create such “Contradictions” in the first place knowing full well that they will severely complicate Japanese diplomacy. See Michishita and Samuels, “Hugging and Hedging,” p. 155 for “Adjusting the Distance from the United States,” p. 159 for “Closing the Distance with China,” and p. 164 for “Coping with Emerging Contradictions.”

Moreover, this framework does not contradict claims made by other authors or discredit their citations of scholars and officials who may in fact hold positions that adhere to facets of this research’s argument; the point here is to subsume all of these disparate claims within a viable, useful, and verifiable mechanism which in many ways pays a great deal of homage to the research already conducted on the topic of Japan’s “hedge.” The general trend in this author’s estimation, however, despite particular statements by particular scholars and officials, appears to be that Japanese leaders seek to preserve Japan’s alliance with the United States, enhance Japan’s position within the alliance (and, if possible, create conditions in which Japan seeks to benefit from other payoffs, for example, economic gains via exploitation of the China market), and gain a measure of autonomy within the broader framework of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Multilateral mechanisms may also be utilized to this end, but for the time being, since multilateral mechanisms in East Asia a relatively weak, Japan’s best single option is enhancing its relationship with China.

[74] That is not to say, of course, that intentions are unimportant but rather that they are “murky.” Still, intentions hold a central importance in this research’s premise. My emphasis here is that intentions and outcomes are of equal significance for this research but that outcomes occur regardless of, and perhaps even contrary to, intentions. Intentions and actions based on them have an eerie knack for producing unintended consequences; this statement articulates both the probable outcome elaborated here (i.e., Japan’s enhancement of its intra-alliance autonomy and bargaining power in order to create a more equal alliance) and the possible risks associated with such methods and the outcome itself.

[75] Samuels, “Japan’s Goldilocks Strategy,” pp. 119-20 (quoted on p. 119).

[76] See Snyder, Alliance Politics, pp. 12-3. An example from Japanese history may suffice to clarify the meaning here. The Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902 was for England justified as a way to keep Russia busy in the Far East. England would not go to war if Japan were attacked by Russia but would aid Japan in the event Russia’s ally France joined Russia in its war against Japan. For Japan, the Anglo-Japanese alliance could be interpreted as a defensive pact that kept Russia’s ally at bay, but it could also be interpreted as England protecting Japan’s rear in a war with Russia that Japan, by 1902, was already contemplating; see ibid., pp. 14 and 270. For the “cover the rear” motive in alliance making, see ibid., p. 20. Without a guarantee that Britain would defend Japan’s rear in the event of war with Russia, Japanese leaders may have taken a more accommodating stance towards Russia’s positions in East Asia for fear of needing to fight both Russia and France on two fronts simultaneously.

[77] “International alternatives” and “diplomatic alternatives” will be used interchangeably throughout the remainder of this research. Admittedly, this may be somewhat disingenuous conceptually; “pattern[s] of alignments,” for example, may form regardless of particular diplomatic relations between countries that may be expected to align; on “pattern of alignment,” see Snyder, Alliance Politics, esp. pp. 7 and 61-2. However, particular relations between both two states expected to align based on the “pattern” and two states expected to become adversaries based on the “pattern” depend on diplomacy between the two (or, potentially, the intervention of a third or subsequent) states. For my intents and purposes here, I focus on this diplomatic element without downplaying the “pattern” concept simply because the former subsumes the latter and because it has greater explanatory power—especially when seeking to explain relations that run contrary to what the “pattern of alignment” expects.

[78] These are, of course, ideals, and should be visualized as existing on a continuum with those states that have the resources to balance internally to the point that it does not need external balancing partners to balance effectively while also having a large number of viable alternatives in terms of balancing externally would be the ideal at the other end of this spectrum.

[79] To be sure, the use of balancing above is merely an analogy. One can have both resources and potential partners without the desire to use them to balance. Moreover, one may possess those resources and those potential partners for purposes beyond merely balancing—e.g., for conquest. Still, I find this analogy useful because it is concise and because it can, at least potentially, be used as a basic understanding in order to explain other options, choices, and activities.

[80] By making this distinction, I attempt to capture both a state’s bilateral allies and subsume the concept of “pattern of alignment” which, one might argue, ought be at least to some respect covered by considering who said state’s ally or allies also ally with bilaterally (assuming the state in question is not formally allied to its ally’s allies). This is, of course, not without problems of its own. A state may, as mentioned above, pursue an alliance relationship with another state contrary to the “pattern of alignment.” A state may also seek to ally with another state that has conflicts of interest with another ally. A state’s ally may seek an alliance relationship with another state that has conflicting interests with the first state. Or a state may join a multilateral alliance with a state with which it has conflicting interest or with a state that can be said to violate the “pattern of alignment.” This last can be said to epitomize Austria’s predicament in the Three Emperors’ Alliance; see Snyder, Alliance Politics, pp. 101-8. In any event, one’s alliance with one’s ally and one’s ally’s alliance with another state determines whether it is, in my framework, an extra- or intra-alliance alternative.

It should also be clarified here that a state need not ally with another state in order for it to be an extra- or intra-alliance potential alliance alternative. However, its ally must not be an ally of the third (extra-alliance) party; this does not preclude the possibility that the state’s ally may not necessarily have adversarial relations with the extra-alliance party but may also approach the extra-alliance party as a possible extra-alliance alternative. The status of a state and its relations with the extra-alliance party as not strictly adversarial is enough to make a state the potential alternative to another. The viability of such an alternative, which can also be considered to exist on a continuum ranging from not viable to very viable, depends on multiple factors, not the least of which includes the degree of conflict between them. It is difficult, due to the murkiness of the international system and the fact that relations between states are fluid and ever-changing, to at any one point nail down precisely how viable a particular potential alternative is. Perceptions of both the potential allies and the other states in the international system suffice to create a general, albeit subjective and fluid, understanding of how viable such an alternative may be.

[81] It could be argued, of course, that détente precipitated the shifts in Soviet-Japan and Sino-Japan relations. However, Soviet-Japan relations improved before superpower détente, and despite the signaling from the Kissinger-Nixon foray into China, the United States was more constrained in its handling of the China issue and was preempted in its normalization of relations with China by Japan regardless of preliminaries. If nothing else, the formality of normalization and the speed with which it occurred in Japan as opposed to the United States demonstrates the fewer restrictions Japan, the junior partner in the alliance, had towards establishing greater extra-alliance autonomy than that of its senior partner.

[82] For the relationship between dependence and abandonment, see Snyder, Alliance Politics, pp. 187-8. Snyder’s concern is with the level of external threat while mine is with autonomy. Still, since a greater number of potential viable alternatives tends to reduce the level of dependence and increase the level of autonomy and bargaining power, Snyder’s central premise supports mine.

[83] Multilateral here can mean trilateral as well, of course.

[84] This is not to say that Japan might not have positive relations with all of these states without sharing a mutual ally. It merely argues that this mutual ally exists and that may add impetus to a stronger bilateral relationship between the two non-allied states that share a mutual ally. In the case of Japan, it may very well be that this shared ally contributes to more-positive relations between non-allied states. See below.

[85] Cha, “Powerplay.”

[86] Cha, “Abandonment, Entrapment, and Neoclassical Realism in Asia.”

[87] Because this is a paper focused primarily on foreign policy issues, I will attempt to keep this section brief and direct the reader to sources for particular references. Moreover, I have combined multiple aspects of domestic policy here for this reason as well and have further done so because domestic economic, political, technological, and military often are difficult to separate completely and tend to impact each other.

[88] The literature on Japanese political economy and industrial policy is rather expansive. On industrial policy in general, see Chalmers Johnson, ed., The Industrial Policy Debaate (San Francisco, CA: Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1984); and Dani Rodrik, Normalizing Industrial Policy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2007), available at http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/drodrik/Research%20papers/Industrial%20Policy%20_Growth%20Commission_.pdf. Contemporary debates regarding Japan’s industrial policy are covered in Kozo Yamamura, “The Japanese Political Economy after the ‘Bubble’: Plus Ca Change?” Journal of Japanese Studies, 23: 2 (Summer, 1997), pp. 291-331; and Yujen Kuo, Market Failure Mentality in Japanese Industrial Policy: Case Studies of Robotics and Aircraft Industries, Ph.D. dissertation (University of Southern California, 2009), esp. chs. 1-2.

[89] See Kuo, Market Failure Mentality in Japanese Industrial Policy, quoted on p. xix. Kuo further attributes these structural constraints to Japan’s late industrialization and Japan’s lack of natural resources.

[90] See especially Green, Arming Japan and Kuo, Market Failure Mentality in Japanese Industrial Policy. See also Richard J. Samuels, “Rich Nation, Strong Army”: National Security and the Technological Transformation of Japan (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994), esp. chs. 6-8.

[91] See, for example, Samuels, “Rich Nation, Strong Army,” pp. 271-8.

[92] See Green, Arming Japan, p. 2 for the definition of kokusanka. These costs have not ruled out autonomous production entirely, but as Green writes, “Technological advancement creates as much complex interdependence as independence, with profound impact of the security policy of a nation like Japan”; ibid., p. 6. Green also asserts that even the United States cannot escape from its own dependence on Japan; moreover, the sheer number of kokusanka projects that met a premature end and the reality that “Japan is no longer marginal to the security of East Asia and the stability of the world” offers key insight into what Green terms the “limits of autonomy”; see ibid., pp. 163-4.

[93] Consult, for example, Heginbotham and Samuels, “Mercantile Realism and Japanese Foreign Policy,” esp. p. 199.

[94] I am, of course, referring to market failures created by such constraints; see Kuo, Market Failure Mentality in Japanese Industrial Policy.

[95] In making the distinction between intra- and extra-alliance autonomy, I am making a break with the alliance-adversary games and bargaining dichotomies in Snyder, Alliance Politics, esp. pp. 33-9 and 198-9 and working more along the lines of dealing with adversaries, allies, and friends (although even these distinctions may be too clear to be of anything more than purely heuristic value); see Linda P. Brady, The Politics of Negotiation: America’s Dealing with Allies, Adversaries, and Friends (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991).

[96] For qualifications to this definition, see f.n. 80, above.

[97] See f.n. 1, above, for this debate. Michael Green notes that a friend of his in the Japanese media, upon hearing that Green was intending to write a book on Japanese foreign policy, joked “Japanese foreign policy? Let me know if you find any!! [sic]”; Green, Japan’s Reluctant Realism, p. 1 (emphasis in original).

[98] These three countries have been chosen for different reasons: Vietnam for the potential problems such a relationship posed to the U.S.-Japan alliance during a period of U.S.-Vietnam conflict, because Vietnam remains communist, and because of the changing U.S.-Vietnam relationship. Iran has been chosen for rather obvious reasons—its size, strategic importance, available resources, ongoing U.S.-Iran tensions, and recent changes in the Japan-Iran relationship. And Russia is a choice due to its size, military capabilities, available resources, the constraints on improving U.S.-Russian relations, and Japan-Russian territorial disputes. It is believed that these three sets of bilateral relations give not only a broad scope to Japanese extra-alliance relations but also a variety with regard to these three countries’ relations to Japan’s U.S. ally.

[99] Here, of course, the emphasis is on Japan-North Vietnam relations after diplomatic relations were established between the two in September, 1973 until the country was reunified under Communist rule on July 2, 1976 (here I am using the date in which the entire country was merged and not merely the date on which North Vietnamese forces captured Saigon [which is Ho Chi Minh City today]). From this latter date until the present, the focus is, of course, on reunified Vietnam.

Much of the information for this section has come from three sources: Hirata, “Japan as a Reactive State?”; Hirata, “Cautious Proactivism and Reluctant Reactivism”; and Hirata, “Reaction and Action: Analyzing Japan’s Relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” available at http://www.csun.edu/~kh246690/reaction.pdf.

[100] For more on the U.S.-Vietnam relationship, which has improved markedly since the 1970s, see Mark E. Manyin, U.S.-Vietnam Relations in 2013: Current Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service, R40208 (July 26, 2011), available at http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R40208.pdf. It should also be noted that Japanese bilateral relations with Vietnam can hardly be expected by themselves to offer a valid alternative to the U.S.-Japan alliance. Vietnam’s smaller size geographically, demographically, economically, and militarily, just to name a few, are currently no match to those of the United States. Vietnam can also hardly be expected to provide the forms of security guarantees to Japan in the manner the United States does. Vietnam as a member of a multilateral alternative in East Asia may prove a more viable alternative, but thus far no credible multilateral mechanism has developed to the extent that the U.S.-Japan bilateral alliance has.

[101] Heginbotham and Samuels, “Japan’s Dual Hedge,” p. 115.

[102] See Samuels, Securing Japan, pp. 153-5, 202 (quoted on p. 153).

[103] See Emma Chanlett-Avery, Mark E. Manyin, William H. Cooper, and Ian E. Rinehart, Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, RL33436 (Aug. 2, 2013), p. 12, available at http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33436.pdf. It should be noted that in 2012, the Obama administration for the second time exempted Japan from sanctions due to activities of Japanese financial institutions that process transactions with Iran; ibid., pp. 12-3.

[104] For recent works on Russia’s influence on Japan’s security and the U.S.-Japan alliance, see Akio Kawato, “How Russia Matters in Japan-U.S. Alliance,” and Joseph Ferguson, “The U.S.-Japan Alliance and Russia,” both in Inoguchi, Ikenberry, and Sato, eds., The U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, pp. 177-93 and 195-216, respectively.

[105] See, for example, Hakamada Shigeki, “Relations with Russia: An Economic Upper Hand for Japan,” Nippon.com (July 22, 2013), available at http://www.nippon.com/en/currents/d00084/.

[106] See, for instance, “Edward Snowden Asylum: U.S. ‘Disappointed’ by Russian Decision,” The Guardian (Aug. 1, 2013), available at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/01/edward-snowden-asylum-us-disappointed.

[107] “Russia’s Vladimir Putin Challenges U.S. on Syria Claims,” BBC News (Aug. 31, 2013), available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23911833.

[108] India is also an interesting potential case study. India’s improving relations with both Japan and the United States make its case somewhat parallel to Vietnam’s, but India’s size makes it in some ways similar to Russia. Although India lacks many of Russia’s natural resources, India’s enormous domestic market and lack of territorial disputes with Japan may make up for its lack of resources. That India also currently lacks the ability to offer alternative security ties to those provided by the United States is another potential weakness, while China’s position between Japan and India may pose certain complications for such a relationship while adding certain benefits (i.e., the prospect of China fighting a two-front war with both Japan and India simultaneously).

[109] I have, in order to remain true to the concept of intra-alliance autonomy, chosen a multilateral construct that consists solely of U.S. allies. This is in contrast to an East Asian multilateral security community that may include extra-alliance partners as well. My goal here is simply to test the amount of intra-alliance autonomy that can be gained from intra-alliance multilateralism as opposed to strict intra-alliance bilateralism. A multilateral security framework that includes both intra- and extra-alliance partners is an interesting case study, but it could be fraught with complications; nonetheless, it could provide fruitful analysis. As such, I have left it out of this research simply because my goal is to test intra-alliance bilateralism and multilateralism and their potential effects on bargaining power. Likewise, extra-alliance multilateralism may also be a useful topic of study.

[110] Again, all such relations may in reality be termed in trilateral or multilateral terms that are inclusive of the United States; what matters here is not necessarily the exclusivity or inclusivity of such relations but rather their ability to provide viable alliance alternatives and enhance bargaining power, particularly Japanese bargaining power, vis-à-vis the United States. The choices of South Korea and Australia as bilateral options were made due to differences in geography (maritime or continental) and culture as well as their differing distances from regional “hotspots,” i.e., areas in the region that pose the potential for major conflict.

[111] For recent discussions of the benefits of integrating the dual bilateral alliances and increasing trilateral security cooperation while also acknowledging the difficulties associated with performing such tasks, see Yasuyo Sakata, “Korea and the Japan-U.S. Alliance: A Japanese Perspective” and Scott Snyder, “Korea and the U.S.-Japan Alliance: An American Perspective,” both in Inoguchi, Ikenberry, and Sato, eds., The U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, pp. 91-117 and 119-36, respectively.

[112] These islands are known as the Liancourt Rocks in many western countries.

[113] “Australia in Japan Security Deal,” BBC News (March 13, 2007), available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6444207.stm. For recent discussions of Australia-Japan relations and Australia’s role in regional security as pertains to the U.S.-Japan alliance, see Takashi Terada, “Evolution of the Australia-Japan Security Partnership: Toward a Softer Triangle Alliance with the United States?” and Sheldon W. Simon, “The United States, Japan, and Australia: Security Linkages to Southeast Asia,” both in Inoguchi, Ikenberry, and Sato, eds., The U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, pp. 217-32 and 233-51, respectively.

[114] See, for example, Ben Packham, “China Reproaches Australia Over Strengthened U.S. Defence Ties,” The Australian (Nov. 17, 2011), available at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/obama-in-australia/our-indispensable-alliance-barack-obama/story-fnb0o39u-1226197460882.

[115] Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, information available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/as.html.

[116] See, for instance, Kamiya, “Reforming the U.S.-Japan Alliance,” esp. pp. 104-7.

[117] This argument is similar to ibid.

[118] Patrick M. Cronin, “The Looming Crisis in U.S.-Japan Relations,” Far Eastern Economic Review (Nov. 13, 2009), available at the Center for a New American Security at http://www.cnas.org/node/3736.

[119] Ibid.

[120] Ibid., emphasis added.

[121] Heginbotham and Samuels write,

Unlike most “normal” nations, the rationale for the use of force by a “normal” Japan would be the assumption of greater international burdens. Use of force would not be undertaken in the pursuit of national interests . . . . Rather, the use of force would be the burden that Japan would assume in order to maintain its image as a member in good standing in the world community. It is that image, not the use of force per se, that serves Japan’s national interests by reinforcing other states’ inclinations to continue supporting the free-trade system that makes Japan’s prosperity possible.

Heginbotham and Samuels, “Mercantile Realism and Japanese Foreign Policy,” p. 199. Although Heginbotham and Samuels are here discussing the potential for Japan to use force in United Nations’-sponsored and directed missions, there remains little reason for Japan to offer more to defend an order that its U.S. ally would arguably defend anyway unless it were pressured by the United States to do so or if it was perceived that the United States may no longer be willing to defend that international order. Defending that order due to U.S. pressure risks entrapment in U.S.-led wars to defend that order (which the United States would defend anyway regardless of Japanese support because U.S. national interest would deem defending that order necessary) and only the risk of abandonment would stimulate Japan (and other countries who benefitted from that order) to defend it at their own cost.

[122] Of course, in order to save the alliance either or both allies may act in one way or another to satisfy the other or each other regardless of whether any quid pro quo regarding equality occurs. However, to date this appears to have occurred only marginally and to the satisfaction of neither ally.

[123] As mentioned above, this section focuses on the post-Koizumi Japanese prime ministers because these prime ministers have been, it is argued, “Goldilocks” prime ministers in that they search to “get it just right” between the United States and China and have been less willing than Koizumi to sacrifice Beijing for Washington; see f.n. 7, above. There have been, at the time of this paper’s writing, seven post-Koizumi prime ministers, with one (Abe Shinzo) serving two terms; three prime ministers (consisting of four terms) have been from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and three prime ministers (three terms) have been from the DPJ: Abe Shinzo, LDP (Sept. 26, 2006-Sept. 26, 2007); Fukuda Yasuo, LDP (Sept. 26, 2007-Sept. 24, 2008); Aso Taro, LDP (Sept. 24, 2008-Sept. 16, 2009); Hatoyama Yukio, DPJ (Sept. 16, 2009-June 8, 2010); Kan Naoto, DPJ (June 8, 2010-Sept. 2, 2011); Noda Yoshihiko, DPJ (Sept. 2, 2011-Dec. 26, 2012); and Abe Shinzo (second term), LDP (Dec. 26, 2012-present).

[124] For detailed accounts of Sino-Japanese relations from mid-2006 to the present, see Comparative Connections, various issues, years 2006-13, available at http://csis.org/program/comparative-connections. Much of what follows is informed by the various issues there; when specific quotations are taken from specific issues, they are cited as such, below. Other sources are cited as usual.

[125] On this point, see Richard C. Bush, The Perils of Proximity: China-Japan Security Relations (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2010), pp. 78-9.

[126] Quoted in “Concern Over China’s Missile Test,” BBC News (Jan. 19, 2007), available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6276543.stm.

[127] Information Office of the State Council, People’s Republic of China, China’s National Defense in 2006 (Dec. 29, 2006), par. 9, available in English at http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/china/doctrine/wp2006.html.

[128] Quoted in James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Wen in Japan: Ice Melting But . . .,” Comparative Connections, 9: 2 (July, 2007) p. 138.

[129] James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Politics in Command,” Comparative Connections, 9: 3 (Oct., 2007), p. 1.

[130] “Policy Speech by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to the 168th Session of the Diet,” Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet: Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister, Provisional Translation (Oct. 1, 2007), available at http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/hukudaspeech/2007/10/01syosin_e.html.

[131] Quoted in James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Politics in Command: Part 2,” Comparative Connections, 9: 4 (Jan., 2008), p. 7, available at http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/0704qjapan_china.pdf.

[132] Ibid., p. 9.

[133] Justin McCurry, “Chinese Dumplings Poison Dozens in Japan,” The Guardian (Jan. 31, 2008), available at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jan/31/japan.china.

[134] “China’s Hu in Historic Japan Trip,” BBC News (May 6, 2008), available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7384749.stm. It should be noted that the Japanese public did not appear to hold the Hu visit in high regard, with 51 percent of those surveyed by Mainichi Shimbun around the time of the visit answered that they would rather that Japan dealt with China in a “stricter manner”; see James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Progress in Building a Strategic Relationship,” Comparative Connections, 10: 2 (July, 2007), p. 6, available at http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/0802qjapan_china.pdf.

[135] Quoted in ibid., pp. 8-9.

[136] James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Gyoza, Beans, and Aircraft Carriers,” Comparative Connections, 10: 4 (Jan., 2008), pp. 5-6, available at http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/0804qjapan_china.pdf; see also Bush, Perils of Proximity, p. 104. For the essay, see Tamogami Toshio, “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?” available at http://www.apa.co.jp/book_report/images/2008jyusyou_saiyuusyu_english.pdf.

[137] “Aso Vows to Reeducate SDF Personnel, Criticizes Tamogami’s Essay,” Kyodo News (Nov. 13, 2008), available at http://www.thefreelibrary.com/LEAD%3A+Aso+vows+to+reeducate+SDF+personnel,+criticizes+Tamogami’s…-a0190423123.

[138] The Democratic Party of Japan, “2009 Change of Government: The Democratic Party of Japan’s Platform for Government: Putting People’s Lives First” (August, 2009), p. 28, available at http://www.dpj.or.jp/english/manifesto/manifesto2009.pdf.

[139] Ibid.

[140] Ibid.

[141] For these early statements, see James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Old Issues Meet a New Government,” Comparative Connections, 11: 3 (Oct., 2009), pp. 4-5, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/0903qjapan_china.pdf.

[142] Ibid., p. 6.

[143] This meeting was not without controversy, however, as it was viewed as breaching Imperial Household protocol; see Mike Firn and Aaron Sheldrick, “Emperor Akihito’s Tokyo Meeting With China’s Xi Draws Protests,” Bloomberg (Dec. 15, 2009), available at http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aRgk3Jcl6Wlc. It was revealed that the Hatoyama government had requested the audience because “bilateral relations . . . are of high importance”; quoted in James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Gathering Momentum,” Comparative Connections, 11: 4 (Jan., 2010), p. 6, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/0904qjapan_china.pdf.

[144] Ibid., p. 7.

[145] “Policy Speech by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to the 174th Session of the Diet,” Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister, Provisional Translation (Jan. 29, 2010), available at http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/hatoyama/statement/201001/29siseihousin_e.html.

[146] Quoted in James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: All’s Well that Ends Well,” Comparative Connections, 12: 1 (April, 2010), pp. 1-2, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1001qjapan_china.pdf.

[147] Ibid., p. 4. For a somewhat more optimistic outlook, see Kate Merkel-Hess and Jeffery N. Wasserstrom, “Nanjing by the Numbers,” Foreign Policy (Feb. 9, 2010), available at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/09/nanjing_by_the_numbers.

[148] World Briefing: Asia (via Reuters), “Japan: Protest Over Chinese Helicopter,” New York Times (April 21, 2010), available at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/22/world/asia/22briefs-japanhelicopter.html.

[149] For the September 7th incident and its immediate aftermath, see James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Troubled Waters,” Comparative Connections, 12: 3 (Oct., 2010), pp. 4-10, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1003qjapan_china.pdf and Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Troubled Waters II,” Comparative Connections, 12: 4 (Jan., 2011), passim, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1004qjapan_china.pdf.

[150] See Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Troubled Waters II,” pp. 1-2.

[151] “Japan PM Naoto Kan Announces Resignation Amid Criticism,” BBC News (Aug. 26, 2011), available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-14675445.

[152] For this particular incident, see James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Another New Start,” Comparative Connections, 13: 3 (Jan., 2012), p. 6, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1103qjapan_china.pdf.

[153] Quoted in James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Happy 40th Anniversary,” Comparative Connections, 14: 1 (May, 2012), p. 5, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1201qjapan_china.pdf. The audio and video for Ishihara’s speech, “The U.S.-Japan Alliance and the Debate Over Japan’s Role in Asia,” is available at the Heritage Foundation’s website at http://www.heritage.org/events/2012/04/shintaro-ishihara.

[154] For reference to the polls, see James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Happy 40th Anniversary . . . ? Part 2,” Comparative Connections, 14: 2 (Sept., 2012), p. 10, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1202qjapan_china.pdf.

[155] References to public opinion during this period, see James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: 40th Anniversary: Fuggetaboutit!” Comparative Connections, 14: 3 (Jan., 2013), p. 7, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1203qjapan_china.pdf.

[156] For some related comments and the visits, see James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Treading Troubled Waters,” Comparative Connections, 15: 1 (May, 2013), pp. 1-4, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1301qjapan_china.pdf.

[157] Martin Fackler, “Japan Says China Aimed Military Radar at Ship,” New York Times (Feb. 5, 2013), available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/world/asia/japan-china-islands-dispute.html?_r=0.

[158] “China Military Officials Admit Ship Radar Lock: Reports,” AFP (March 18, 2013), available at http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ghD7eJPvXRdgMpb51K6nwFKeP3Vg?docId=CNG.839a63b495e9438c8a1f00676298857c.371.

[159] “China Angered as Japan, Taiwan Sign Fishing Agreement,” Reuters (April 10, 2013), available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/10/us-china-japan-taiwan-idUSBRE93909520130410.

[160] Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Treading Troubled Waters,” pp. 11-2.

[161] James J. Pryzstup, “Japan-China Relations: Going Nowhere Slowly,” Comparative Connections, 15: 2 (Sept., 2013), pp. 1-2, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1302qjapan_china.pdf.

[162] Ibid., pp. 3-8. Provisional translation of Japan’s 2013 Defense White Paper can be found at the Ministry of Defense website at http://www.mod.go.jp/e/publ/w_paper/2013.html.

[163] Ibid., p. 10.

[164] The information for this section has largely been taken from U.S.-Japan sections of Comparative Connections, various issues, years 2006-13, available at http://csis.org/program/comparative-connections. As with the previous (Sino-Japan) section, when specific quotations are taken from specific issues, they are cited as such, below. Other sources are cited as usual.

[165] “Policy Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the 165th Session of the Diet,” Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet: Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister, Provisional Translation (Sept. 29, 2006), available at http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/abespeech/2006/09/29speech_e.html.

[166] Michael J. Green and Shinjiro Koizumi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: Abe Shows the Right Stuff,” Comparative Connections, 8: 4 (Jan., 2007), pp. 1-2, available at http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/0604qus_japan.pdf.

[167] See Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Speech by Mr. Taro Aso, Minister of Foreign Affairs on the Occasion of the Japan Institute of International Affairs Seminar: ‘Arc of Freedom and Prosperity: Japan’s Expanding Diplomatic Horizons” (Nov. 30, 2006), available at http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/fm/aso/speech0611.html.

[168] Green and Moizumi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: Abe Shows the Right Stuff,” p. 6.

[169] On these issues, see Michael J. Green and Shinjiro Koizumi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: An Unexpected Rough Patch,” Comparative Connections, 9: 1 (April, 2007), pp. 20-1, available at http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/0701qus_japan.pdf.

[170] See, for instance, Tom Zeller, Jr., “The Politics of Apology for Japan’s ‘Comfort Women’,” The Lede: New York Times Blogs (March 5, 2007), available at http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/03/05/the-politics-of-apology-for-japans-comfort-women/.

[171] For this, see Green and Koizumi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: An Unexpected Rough Patch,” pp. 22-3.

[172] “Policy Speech by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to the 168th Session of the Diet.”

[173] Most of these issues are discussed at greater length in Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: Distracted Governments Make Some Positive Progress,” Comparative Connections, 9: 4 (Jan., 2008), available at http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/0704qus_japan.pdf.

[174] For this interpretation, see Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: Traversing a Rough Patch,” Comparative Connections, 10: 4 (Jan., 2009), p. 3, available at http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/0804qus_japan.pdf.

[175] Ibid., p. 5.

[176] Reported in Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: Coordination and Uncertainty,” Comparative Connections, 11: 2 (July, 2009), p. 4, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/0902qus_japan.pdf.

[177] “Basic Policies of the Hatoyama Government,” Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister, Provisional Translation (Sept. 16, 2009), available at http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/hatoyama/statement/200909/16policies_e.html.

[178] For Hatoyama’s speech, see “Policy Speech by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at the 173rd Session off the Diet,” Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister, Provisional Translation (Oct. 26, 2009), available at http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/hatoyama/statement/200910/26syosin_e.html.

[179] The 2006 agreement stipulated that the base would be moved to the less crowded Camp Schwab while 8,000 marines and their dependents would be transferred to Guam pending the construction of a new Marine Corps facility at Camp Schwab; see Chanlett-Avery, Manyin, Cooper, and Rinehart, Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress, pp. 15-6.

[180] Reported in Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: Adjusting to Untested Political Terrain,” Comparative Connections, 11: 4 (Jan., 2010), p. 5, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/0904qus_japan.pdf.

[181] The DPJ-led coalition in the Diet began to fall apart as the Social-Democratic Party (SDP) left the coalition on May 30.

[182] See the reports in Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: New Realism,” Comparative Connections, 12: 2 (July, 2010), pp. 1-2, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1002qus_japan.pdf.

[183] “Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan,” Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister, Provisional Translation (June 8, 2010), available at http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/kan/statement/201006/08kaiken_e.html.

[184] Green and Szechenyi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: New Realism,” p. 3.

[185] See Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: Hitting the Reset Button,” Comparative Connections, 12: 3 (Oct., 2010), pp. 4-5 (quoted on p. 4), available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1003qus_japan.pdf.

[186] Results and assessment found in Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: Tempering Expectations,” Comparative Connections, 12: 4 (Jan., 2010), p. 5, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1004qus_japan.pdf.

[187] See Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: Back to Normal?” Comparative Connections, 14: 1 (May, 2012), pp. 3-4, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1201qus_japan.pdf.

[188] For these problems, see Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi, “U.S.-Japan Relations: Noda Marches On; Both Sides Distracted?” Comparative Connections, 14: 2 (Sept., 2012), pp. 2-3, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/1202qus_japan.pdf.

[189] Cf. Isabel Reynolds, “Japan Defense Budget to Increase for First Time in 11 Years,” Bloomberg (Jan. 30, 2013), available at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-29/japan-s-defense-spending-to-increase-for-first-time-in-11-years.html; “Minister Says Japan to Bolster Its Defenses,” Wall Street Journal (July 19, 2013), available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323394504578609601309804558.html; and “China Media: Warning Over Japan Warship,” BBC News (Aug. 7, 2013), available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-23598289.

[190] “Japan Exports to China at 4-Year Low,” Wall Street Journal (Aug. 14, 2013), available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324139404579012481067770274.html.

[191] “Japanese Exports to U.S. Surge,” Journal of Commerce (Sept. 20, 2013), available at http://www.joc.com/international-trade-news/trade-data/asia-trade-data/japanese-exports-us-surge_20130920.html.

[192] Lowell Dittmer, “The Strategic Triangle: An Elementary Game-Theoretical Analysis,” World Politics, 33: 4 (July, 1981), pp. 485-515 (quoted on p. 486; emphasis in the original).

[193] Henry A. Kissinger, White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1979), p. 712.

[194] One strength of the present research is that the arguments put forth by various, and especially American, scholars, listed above, that Japan is seeking to distance itself from the United States is a product of perceptions Japan’s position and diplomatic maneuvering has created that may, in effect, demonstrate this research’s viability. Namely, arguing that Japan is looking to narrow the political gap with China while distancing itself from the United States may be a perception that Japanese statesmen have created and promoted in order to enhance the perceptions among Americans that the viability of the China alternative is increasing. In any event, the distancing argument can still plausibly be subsumed, from this perspective, under the framework of the present research.

[195] Here, Dittmer’s characterization of the odd man out in a “stable marriage” and how such a position may enhance the possibility of the third (outside) party’s propensity to act provocatively demands attention, as it can reveal much about China’s current position in any triangle as it may currently exist and say a great deal about any form of “hedging” or “dual hedge” involving Japan and the U.S.-Japan alliance. Moreover, Dittmer’s treatment of the dissolution of a stable marriage may also have important implications for the U.S.-Japan relationship under such a construct; for these, see Dittmer, “The Strategic Triangle,” esp. pp. 490, 491, 493, 500-2, 504-7, 509, and 513-4.


Japan’s Search for a More Equal Alliance


Scholarship on Japanese foreign policy and grand strategy over the past decade or so has tended to argue that Japan is “hedging” between China and the United States and closing the political gap between itself and China while distancing itself from its American ally.

Many different explanations and justifications of this “hedge” have been put forward. Some scholars argue that it is a balance between hard and soft power approaches to shaping Chinese behavior. Others make the point that there are both economic and security aspects involved, in which Japan depends for its economic well-being on China’s economic growth and for its security on the United States and the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Some claim that it is Japan’s way of avoiding the classic “alliance security dilemma” of abandonment-entrapment by its ally. Still others believe that it consists of a mixture of (primarily economic) engagement and (military) containment; or even multiple hedges—a hedge against U.S. decline and Chinese aggression, a hedge against the alliance security dilemma, and a hedge against predation and protectionism in economic affairs.

My article, a summary of a paper I am submitting to the 2013 National Sun Yat-sen University’s 2013 Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies, was published at Sharnoff’s Global Views and continues here.