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The Japan-U.S. Opportunity

May 02 , 2015

A summit meeting, state dinner and address to a joint meeting of Congress—Shinzo Abe received the symbols of mutual respect a close ally deserves on his visit this week to Washington. But the Japanese Prime Minister’s American turn was about more than optics. Japan and the U.S. need to make far-reaching choices to strengthen the alliance, and the visit was a useful statement of resolve to break down political resistance in both countries.

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American Enterprise Institute Resident Scholar Michael Auslin on what was accomplished during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state visit this week. Photo credit: Associated Press.
Start with joint security, as the countries announced new joint defense guidelines that will at last allow Japan’s military to fight alongside U.S. forces outside Japan. The alliance had been hampered by an overly strict interpretation of Japan’s constitution.

Mr. Abe’s cabinet reinterpreted the constitution earlier this year and asserted the nation’s right of collective self-defense. That makes for a more equal alliance, in which Japanese forces can come to America’s aid and play a central role in defending East Asia’s democracies. Mr. Abe still needs parliament to pass legislation to put these changes into effect, and much of the Japanese public is reluctant to abandon its pacifist illusions.

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