The US-Japan relationship is deep and multilayered but needs reinvigoration or it faces a “quiet crisis” of ineffectiveness, said panelists at a public seminar on November 6 entitled, “US-Japan Relations: Past, Present and Future,” at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. The event was the second in a four-city tour to launch the Japan Matters for America / America Matters for Japan project.
The event was moderated by Dr. Koji Murata, professor at Doshisha University. Panelists included Dr. Toshihiko Hayashi, professor at Doshisha University, Dr. Satu Limaye, director of the East-West Center in Washington and the Asia Matters for America initiative, and Dr. Andrew Oros, associate professor at Washington College.
Current problems in the US-Japan relationship are nothing new, said Dr. Hayashi. In fact, the two countries have encountered tensions at many points, including trade frictions, over textiles in the 1950s and over semiconductors in the 1970s, and currency valuation in the 1980s. These frictions caused the two countries to cooperate and strengthened their long term relationship. The best future for the two countries, then, is by continued cooperation and collaboration.
Much of the US-Japan relationship is beyond the control of either government, Dr. Oros said. Beyond the formal military alliance, there is interaction and cooperation in music, science, design, and business that is directed by individuals and grass-roots organizations. In the same way, many Americans and Japanese are
motivated out of sincere interest to study their respective languages and cultures. The governments should do all they can to support these efforts.
When asked about the recent US midterm elections, all panelists agreed that the US and Japan have clear shared values that do not require reassessment every 2 or 4 years upon a change of leadership in either country. With recent new governments in both countries, however, projects such as Japan Matters for America will continue to be necessary to remind and reinforce the mutual importance of the US-Japan relationship.
Looking at the next ten years of US-Japan relations, the panelists said there is reason for optimism but cautioned that both countries will need to adapt to changes in the international environment. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) may need to take on an increased burden of the Japanese defense and play a stronger regional role. The two countries may also need further cooperation on global and regional nontraditional security issues such as coordinated responses to pandemic illnesses and natural disasters. Finally, the two countries need to realize that their relationship cannot afford to stay the same, because the world is changing so quickly.