Tribune. Yoshihide Suga meets with President Biden on Friday April 16. Sign of a particular interest, the Japanese Prime Minister is the first head of state or government to travel to the United States to meet his counterpart. He thus follows in the footsteps of his predecessor Shinzo Abe who [en 2016] was the first to get an interview with the barely elected Donald Trump.
For Japan, this reaffirmation of the preeminence of the Japanese-American alliance by the United States, and more generally of the Indo-Pacific space, is essential. Washington’s announcement of withdrawal from Afghanistan further underscores this orientation of the strategic priority towards the Pacific, inaugurated under Obama by those around President Biden today, and continued by Donald Trump.
Another positive point for Tokyo, the United States has repeated on several occasions that the Senkaku archipelago, where China is increasing its pressure, was well covered by article 5 of the mutual cooperation and security treaty in force since 1960. Indeed, if the South China Sea is a very visible area of Beijing’s fait accompli strategy, the Senkaku Islands, Japanese since 1895, are also a test area: in the event of too much pressure or an attempt to landing on the part of a Chinese regime that wants to assert itself, what would Tokyo do?
The best deterrent
Japan is held by the strong constraints of its Constitution – and of its public opinion – and ill at ease in the management of crisis in the “gray areas” that China likes for their ambiguity. In this context, the strong reaffirmation of the alliance and of the American commitment constitutes the best deterrent: the slightest doubt, interpreted by Beijing as a sign of weakness, could only lead to a serious crisis.
Japan, for many years, has acquired a legislative and regulatory arsenal which in principle authorizes the forces of the Archipelago to support the United States in the event of a crisis constituting a vital threat.
But the Senkaku are not everything, and if, as Tokyo rightly argues, the importance of the alliance, and its relevance, also lies in its role as a cornerstone of stability in Asia, the United States continues to expect greater involvement from Japan.
For Donald Trump, as with Germany, it was a question of “making Japan pay”, which already participates massively in the maintenance of American bases on its soil. With Joe Biden, the stakes are more complex. The issue of grassroots funding has been pushed back, easing tensions. But Washington is also waiting for commitments that go beyond declarations of principle on “common values”.
You have 53.6% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.