Until recently, the U.S.-Japan alliance has been little more than a Cold War relic. The main issue of discussion — other than economic and trade — has been how rapidly and completely the Marines would withdraw from Okinawa.
The reversal in course has been rapid and profound: War in the Middle East, North Korea’s missile and nuclear program and, above all, the growing military power of China have shaken Japan from its pacifism. Tokyo is reconsidering both its own military needs and the requirements for combined operations with U.S. forces. The presence of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in Iraq, though limited, is a reflection of this new commitment.
The vision of alliance transformation and its reality remain far apart, as Christopher Griffin explains. Retired Adm. Hideaki Kaneda outlines the SDF’s dilemma: Japan’s services must learn to operate jointly even as they seek interoperability with the United States. But from an American perspective, the reward will be well worth the effort, as Aaron Friedberg, returned to Princeton after a two-year tour in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, argues — a newly Rising Sun will shine on U.S. security interests.