Japan-U.S. alliance looks gloomy

With Sunday marking the second anniversary of Donald Trump’s presidency, the United States’ alliance with Japan has generally strengthened but his “America First” agenda — ranging from trade to North Korea — has sometimes generated uncertainty in otherwise firm bilateral relations.

Personal rapport between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as shared concerns about China’s rising assertiveness in the Indo Pacific region have bolstered Washington-Tokyo ties, according to U.S.-based Japan experts.

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A broad alignment between the two leaders on Asia policy was evident in Trump’s embrace of the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, a Tokyo-led concept widely seen as a counter Beijing’s aggressive posture such as militarization of the South China Sea and what critics call “debt trap” diplomacy toward developing countries.


But Trump initiatives such as the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the suspension of U.S. military exercises with South Korea and the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Japan and other U.S. allies have dealt blows to the Abe government.


In an apparent criticism of the America First mantra, only 28 percent of Japanese respondents to a 2018 U.S. survey said Washington takes Tokyo’s interests into account when making international policy decisions, down from 38 percent in 2013 under former President Barack Obama.


In light of the U.S. pullout from the TPP and exit from the Paris climate agreement, the Pew Research Center survey found that only 30 percent of Japanese have confidence in Trump’s handling of world affairs, compared with a range of 60 to 85 percent under the Obama presidency.


Citing concerns about planned negotiations for a Japan-U.S. trade agreement and Trump’s dealings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, experts believe uncertainty in Tokyo-Washington relations is likely to increase as the Republican president steps up his America First agenda in his bid for re-election in 2020.


Reference: Japan-U.S. ties in deep uncertainty as Trump enters 3rd year in office


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