Reinvigorating Us Japan Policy Dialogue And Study

Past Decade Sees Fewer US-Japan Policy Dialogues and Studies


Contacts between the Japanese and US intellectual community have been in decline over the past decade according to a new report entitled “Reinvigorating US-Japan Policy Dialogue and Study” released by the Japan Center for International Exchange. A direct consequence has been fewer studies, task forces and bilateral Track 2 and Track 1.5 dialogues regarding US-Japan relations. In addition, there has been a reduction in the number of exchange visits for political leaders pertaining to US-Japan shared policy. Paradoxically, this decrease is at a time of increased convergence of US-Japan interests within the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, and arguably at a time of greater cumulative US-Japan societal interactions in terms of personal relationships, family ties, travel, and exposure to popular culture.

Some major findings of this report include:

The number of Japan specialists has shrunk, as has the number of think tanks that focus on US-Japan activities.

Courtesy: JCIE

The report explains that between 1998 and 2008, the top five Japanese international affairs institutes experienced drastic budget expenditure cuts. In comparison, the five leading US international affairs institutes engaged in Asian affairs experienced increased funding, though this has not resulted in an increase of US-Japan policy dialogues and studies. The mantle for the preservation of the nongovernmental side of the Japan-US relationship within Japan has fallen heavily upon the private sector. Private Japanese foundations, many funded by the Sasakawa family, including the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the Tokyo Foundation, and the Ocean Policy Research Foundation, have all made important contributions to the advancement and betterment of the US-Japan policy relationship.

In addition to funding cuts, exchange visits by political leaders from the US Congress and the Japanese Diet have also been on the decline. Annually between 2007 and 2009, more US Congressional members and staff have visited France, Germany, and the United Kingdom individually, than Japan. Over this same time period, more US Congressional members and staff have visited China than Japan.

Courtesy: JCIE

The report suggests that the combined long-term implications of the above could potentially have negative consequences for the overall US-Japan relationship, in terms missed opportunities for both sides.

“The mutual misunderstanding and miscalculations that have cropped up in US-Japan relations in the past several years give a taste of what is liable to happen when policy dialogue channels become too weak and narrow.”

The report notes that there have only been a few new initiatives in Washington, D.C. pertaining directly to the US-Japan relationship. One example highlighted is the launch in early 2009 of the US-Japan Council.

Furthermore, in late 2010 the East-West Center launched the Japan Matters for America / America Matters for Japan project.

This report lists five priorities involving actors from across the public and private sectors that would further enhance and strengthen the US-Japan relationship:

  • Strengthen institutions involved in US-Japan relations.
  • Increase Funding to support US-Japan related study activities.
  • Limit government control and the potential politicization of funding.
  • Broaden the range of dialogue to areas where both Japan and the United States can make constructive regional and global contributions.

Download full report here: Reinvigorating US-Japan Policy Dialogue and Study