In recent years, the U.S.-Japan alliance has evolved in response to changes in Japanese defense policies and the regional security environment in East Asia. The alliance originally was constructed as an asymmetric arrangement—Japan hosts U.S. military bases in exchange for an unreciprocated security guarantee from the United States—but this partnership is shifting incrementally toward more equality. Japan boasts its own sophisticated defense assets and has taken steps that could lead to more involvement in U.S.-led military operations around the world. The United States, meanwhile, rhetorically has ratcheted up its commitment to defend Japan, including the small, uninhabited islands (called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China) that Japan administers but China claims as its territory. The new bilateral Mutual Defense Guidelines (MDG), which the United States and Japan announced at a high-level meeting on April 27, provide policy guidance for more integrated U.S.-Japan defense cooperation. Yet, questions persist about the direction and extent of Japan's security policy reforms.
Date of Report: 4/28/2015
Order Number: IN10265
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