Arthur I. Cyr: Japan-U.S. alliance advances — with Pacific and global significance
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the United States has underscored the vital importance of the alliance between our two nations. Military defense as well as economics is involved.
Growing nationalism is evident in Japan, and reflected in the prime minister's own public statements, but there is no wide support for any massive change in defense posture.
The substantial arms buildup by China receives continuing global attention and concern, along with the wider regional arms race, and ongoing maritime disputes. North Korea's often violent rhetoric, combined with nuclear weapons development, make that country a particularly dangerous wild card.
Last December, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Crater visited the new Izumo, Japan's largest military ship since World War II. Forces from Japan have been in the Indian Ocean in support of the NATO and United Nations military and economic mission in Afghanistan. This is the first time warships flying the Japanese flag have appeared in that part of the world since 1945.
Sustained trade negotiators between Japan and the U.S. seemed to be nearing success and then became stalled. In 2014, hopes were disappointed that negotiations would succeed before a trip by President Barack Obama to Japan. There was also frustration that an accord was not reached in time for Abe's trip to the United States in April-May 2015, though there was useful ceremonial discussion with President Obama and an address to a joint session of Congress.
The abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership by the U.S. has overshadowed, but only for a time, the steady growth of Pacific regional institutions for economic cooperation. ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) was created in 1967 and has growing influence.
APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) was conceived by Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke in 1989. The initiative was embraced enthusiastically by President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker, as the Cold War with the Soviet Union was clearly ending.
Since 1980, United States trade with Asia overall has been greater than with Europe, and that differential continues to expand. The Pacific region encompasses a steadily expanding share of the world's economic product, investment and trade.
President Obama, in 2009, participated in an APEC summit in Singapore and thereafter continued to underscore Asia's importance. This sustained emphasis by Washington helped to strengthen Asia's regional organizations as global as well as Pacific partners.
This, in turn, facilitated efforts to mitigate the financial crisis and consequent recession, which was worldwide in scope but concentrated in the Atlantic region. Asia's economic strength has been crucial to the slow but continuing recovery.
The 2006 APEC summit was held in Vietnam. The gathering provided an opportunity to highlight that economy. Vietnam did not join ASEAN until 1995, reflecting the lingering influence of the Cold War and the Vietnam War. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was honored during the 2006 summit. Vietnam continues active policy engagement.
Today, free markets, and global trade and investment, gradually encourage stability and the rule of law in Asia and elsewhere in the world. At the same time, the enormous arms buildup in the Pacific region requires sustained monitoring and countermeasures.
Japan-U.S. military cooperation is now imperative. Diplomacy and strength are joined.
— Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of 'After the Cold War.' Contact at email@example.com.