US-Japan Relations


In the aftermath of the June 8-9 G7 summit in Charlevoix, Canada, which collapsed under the weight of President Donald Trump’s tariff tantrum, a photograph circulated—courtesy of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s twitter account—that captured the mood of the meeting.1 In the picture, Trump is seated, arms crossed, gazing placidly ahead, as European leaders, Merkel most closely, lean forward across a table to make their case. While the world focused on the confrontation between Trump and Europe, the more interesting figure is Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo, who is standing off to one side, arms also crossed, staring at the Europeans with a look that is equal parts disdain and disinterest. He appears to be aligned with the Americans: physically, he is closest to US national security advisor John Bolton, but he also seems to be in sync with Trump’s posture, more in listening mode than actively engaging.

That stance—separate from both camps but leaning slightly toward the Americans—well-captures Abe’s position in the world. Since Trump’s surprise election in November 2016, Abe has scrambled to build a relationship with a mercurial and inexperienced leader who has few fixed beliefs—one of which is a seeming hostility toward Japan because (the president believes) Tokyo exploits the United States in its trade and security relationships. Unfortunately for Abe, he has few cards to play to keep Trump on his side. They were enough during the first year of the new administration, but as Trump has become more comfortable as president, he is increasingly relying on his instincts—and Japan is suffering for it. The question for Japan, as the world digests the impact of the disastrous G7 meeting and the empty spectacle that was the summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, is how Abe will respond to a US president who seems unconcerned about maintaining the pillars of postwar US foreign policy, of which the relationship with Japan is one.

Building a Bromance

As soon as the 2016 election results were in, Abe’s team began planning a visit to the United States to build a relationship with the president-elect. He met Trump at his New York City offices during the transition and worked assiduously to nurture a personal relationship. Japanese motivations were plain: Trump had denounced US allies as freeloaders, who used multilateral trade agreements to promote unfair trade relations with the United States. Trump displayed little if any concern about continuity in US foreign policy and even prided himself on being the “disruptor in chief.” Moreover, Trump’s unilateralism was complemented by a transactional mentality that worried Japanese strategists who feared the new president would be prepared to privilege relations with Beijing, which could, by virtue of its size and increasing assertiveness, put more on the table than could Japan.

That approach worked. Abe forged a strong relationship with Trump during the first year of his term, meeting frequently at bilateral summits or on the sidelines of other international gatherings. By one account, the two men have met nine times, played golf three times and spoken nearly two-dozen times by phone.2 Abe pressed Japan’s concerns—the need for a hard line against North Korean nuclear and missile programs, the fate of the abductees, and worries about Chinese assertiveness throughout Asia—and Trump seemed receptive, backing policies that tightly coupled Washington and Tokyo. Japan was periodically rattled when Trump vented unilateralist, mercantilist rhetoric—withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Tokyo supported, calling for an end to NAFTA, and disparaging the WTO and blocking its appellate process—but Abe’s approach was hailed as a success at home and abroad, and for many, he set the “gold standard” for relations with a mercurial and temperamental leader.

By the end of 2017, Abe’s domestic position was strengthened after a resounding coalition victory in October parliamentary elections, and he and Trump appeared to be moving in lockstep in response to accelerating North Korean provocations. Trump made Tokyo his first stop on a five-nation November Asia tour, and the visit was rich in atmospherics (golf figured prominently on the agenda, and they sported matching caps emblazoned with “Donald and Shinzo make alliance even greater”). There was some concern about anticipated US calls for progress in bilateral trade talks, but the pressure was successfully deflected.3

A Whiff of Desperation

In 2018, that comfort and confidence began to erode. Worries bubbled up as Kim Jong-un launched a diplomatic charm offensive, securing North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Japan feared the nascent détente would crack the united front against Pyongyang, a fear that proved real as Seoul reciprocated Kim’s overtures. Abe put aside concerns about appearing weak and opted to attend the Olympic Opening Ceremonies to make his case to South Korean president Moon Jae-in to stay strong (and to make sure that his absence would not prompt a South Korean no-show when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics in 2020). Japanese concern became alarm after Trump’s out-of-the-blue announcement that he would meet Kim, an impetuous decision made after South Korean envoys briefed the US president on Moon’s plans to meet the North Korean leader in April and conveyed Kim’s readiness to sit down with Trump.4

Abe spoke to Trump that evening and made plans to visit the United States to coordinate policy and make sure that the president did not abandon their agreed approach. Japanese concerns about US thinking hardened as Trump shuffled his foreign policy team, firing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and then firing National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and putting perennial hardliner John Bolton in his place. To be clear: While Tokyo favors a tough approach toward North Korea and seeks to maintain the pressure that it believes has forced Pyongyang to the negotiating table, Japan knows that a conflict is not in its interest. It distinguishes between strategic pressure and recklessness. At their April Mar-a-Lago summit, the two men reaffirmed their commitment to North Korea’s denuclearization, and Trump promised to press for an accounting and release of Japanese abductees.

Japanese anxiety was rising on the economic front as well. In March, Japanese celebrations over conclusion of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the 11-member trade agreement that was cobbled together after Trump withdrew from the TPP, were cut short when the United States announced that it would impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Japan was doubly offended: not only was it not granted an exemption but the tariff decision was authorized under Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which permits the president to act in defense of national security. In other words, Japan, the closest US ally in Asia, was being labeled a national security threat. As one Japanese official explained, “The Japanese government cannot understand why our exports possibly endanger the national security of the United States.”5 Tokyo held its fire and did not retaliate with tariffs of its own. Instead, it attempted to make the case for exemptions—all for naught. Exemptions were not forthcoming, and US officials indicated that the tariffs were in the service of a larger objective—forcing Japan to the negotiating table for bilateral talks. Trump did raise Japanese hopes when he said in mid-April that he might consider rejoining the TPP, but those prospects were just as abruptly shattered after the summit with Abe when Trump said he preferred to cut bilateral deals. The two countries did agree to set up a framework to discuss “free, fair and reciprocal” (FFR) trade—a concession that the Japanese insist is not the precursor to a bilateral agreement—talks which will be led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Economy Minister Motegi Toshimitsu.

Japan’s economic concerns go beyond its own bruising battles with Washington. Japan is closely watching negotiations over the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Japan has invested substantially in Mexico and Canada, much of that driven by plans to produce automobiles that are sold in the United States.6 Total Japanese FDI in Mexico has reached $14 billion in the last 20 years.7  Ripping up NAFTA, or even changing the domestic content restrictions as has been suggested, would have a profound impact on the operations and profitability of Japanese companies in North America. As negotiations drag on, Mexico is looking for ways to diversify its trade relations—nearly three-quarters of its exports now go the United States—and expanding ties with Japan is an inviting option, since only 1.3 percent of Mexico’s exports currently go there.8 Mexico’s membership in CPTPP also encourages it to look to Tokyo for trade options.

Just as troubling—and again indicative of the fine line that Japanese strategists walk—is the prospect of a US trade war with China. Japan knows well how Beijing attempts to advantage its own companies in China’s domestic market, and Tokyo, like other governments and businesses, would like to see a more level-playing field. But the Japanese supply chain runs across China, and US (or European) policies that would penalize Chinese companies risk hurting those Japanese manufacturers as well. Tokyo prefers a united front against unfair trading practices, one that uses the WTO as the arbitrator. Unfortunately, US policies undercut the prospect of such a coalition and resort to the WTO and encourage other governments to make common cause with Beijing against US unilateralism.

The G6 + One

Tensions came to a head in May and June. As Trump showed no readiness to compromise on his tariffs, Japan indicated that it was prepared to retaliate, informing the WTO that it had the right to impose tariffs on US goods worth ¥50 billion ($451 million), an amount equal to the impact of the US tariffs. But it still stayed its hand, noting that it would “decide appropriately, considering the impact on Japanese companies as well as related US measures.”9 Undaunted, Trump initiated efforts to study whether the same national security provisions that enabled the steel and aluminum tariffs could be used to sanction automobile imports. That was an affront that even the Japanese could not afford to ignore. In Diet debate, Abe called tariffs on automobiles, which make up about 30 percent of Japanese trade with the United States, “incomprehensible and unacceptable.”10

As trade relations heated up, there was a palpable relief in Tokyo when Trump announced on May 24 that he was going to cancel his meeting with Kim, citing the “tremendous anger and open hostility” that the Pyongyang government had demonstrated in recent statements (which vilified Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence).11 When Trump again reversed course days later and the summit was back on, Abe scrambled to arrange a trip to Washington—a brief detour on his way to Canada for the G7 summit—to ensure that he and the president remained in sync on North Korea policy. In their fourth face-to-face meeting, Trump pledged to push for the complete disarmament of North Korea’s nuclear program, to continue the “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions, and to press Kim on the fate of the abductees. Reassured, Abe headed to Canada and the tumultuous meeting that followed. There, Trump continued his assault on the institutions of global order—the G7 and the other instruments of a rules-based order—and the norms upon which they are built.

Historical or Amnesia?

Like much of the rest of the world, Japan was captivated by the spectacle in Singapore. News shows were dominated by snippets of footage—repeatedly endlessly—of cavalcades crossing the city state and hotel exteriors where heads of state were staying or the talks would be held. Two questions dominated the conversation: would North Korean agree to complete denuclearization, and would Trump bring up the abductees issue? As news of the discussion trickled out, Japan was pleased to learn that Trump had kept his promise and had pressed Kim on the abductees. On the nuclear issue, the reports were less heartening. Abe offered “support (for the joint statement) as the first step toward a comprehensive resolution of issues involving North Korea.”12 Other Japanese officials applauded the easing of tensions,13 while acknowledging that the declaration signed by the two leaders was thin gruel. Kanasugi Kenji, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, put the best possible spin on the outcome, calling the statement “a desirable step in the right direction” while conceding that “there was a gap between what we hoped for and what was achieved.”14 With the absence of a timeline for denuclearization and no mention of CVID, Japanese officials working the issue were described as “down in the dumps, fearing that North Korea’s denuclearization will have no substance.”15

Foreign Minister Kono decamped to Seoul after the summit to join his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha for a debriefing from Pompeo. After the meeting, Kono applauded Trump’s efforts, but cautioned that they are the beginning of a process. He repeated that any decision on US-ROK military exercises should be a joint decision by those two governments and underscored that the enduring US “commitment to defend allies and Japan-US security commitment, and US forces in Japan posture remain unchanged.”16 Other Japanese officials were not quite so diplomatic. Sato Masahisa, a state minister for foreign affairs and former SDF officer, confessed that he was “stunned” by Trump’s announcement that exercises would be suspended, explaining that “It would have a huge effect on Japan’s national security and the role of the SDF.”17

Japanese shock was due, in no small part, to a belief that no such deal was on the table. National Security Advisor Yachi Shotaro met with US counterpart Bolton in the days before the summit, and reportedly was assured that the US troop presence in South Korea would not be discussed in Singapore. That followed a meeting a week earlier between Defense Minister Onodera Itsunori and US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, at which Mattis said his government had no plans to reduce the US troop level in South Korea.18 These twists fueled an anxiety that was taking root in Tokyo, a mood well captured by a commentator who noted that an end to the Cold War confrontation on the Korean Peninsula would be “an historic turning point,” but went on to warn that “it is dangerous to leave the future of the Korean Peninsula in the hands of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US president Donald Trump, whose major swings in what he says and does is far from normal.”19

It is one thing for Trump to ignore Japanese equities as he conducts US foreign policy: US presidents have all too frequently informed Japan (and other allies) after making big decisions, rather than consulting beforehand as would befit a genuine partnership. It is another thing, however, to take actions that genuinely endanger Japanese interests, as is the case with the suspension of US joint exercises with the ROK military. As Onodera explained, “US troops based in South Korea as well as US-South Korea military exercises play a very important role for national security in East Asia.”20

The Trump Bet Goes Bad

There is growing sentiment in Japan that Trump is a wild card and Abe’s attempt to tame or otherwise contain the US president has proven to be a failure. Abe bet that he could insulate his country from Trump’s rages and reversals by forging a personal relationship with him. It was temporarily successful, but the president got comfortable in his new job and decided to go with his instincts (an inclination facilitated by the firing and retiring of advisors prepared to challenge them). As a result, the prime minister was repeatedly blindsided as Trump played reality TV star with Kim—will he or won’t he?—and indulged his 1980s convictions that the root of US economic woes is Japanese trade policy. The Trump administration’s move on automobiles crystallized growing doubts about the wisdom and utility of Abe’s strategy to build as close a relationship as possible with the US president. Tamaki Yuichiro, head of the opposition, was brutally clear in a Diet debate: “You yourself often claim that Japan and the US are 100 percent together. If there had been no heads-up from the US side on this matter, I’d have to suspect that we may not be seen as their ally.”21

Even worse for Abe, while a close relationship with the US president was once considered a good thing—and managing relations with the United States has historically been one of the top responsibilities of the prime minister—it is now a potential liability. In a Pew survey, just 24 percent of Japanese people think Trump will “do the right thing.” In that poll, 62 percent of Japanese identified US power and influence as a major threat to Japan.22 In another recent survey, 43.7 percent of respondents consider the Abe-Trump personal relationship bad for Japan, while only 25.4 percent said it had a good impact on Japan.23 In its polling, Genron NPO reports that 50.8 percent of Japanese say that their trust in the United States has decreased, and nearly 60 percent said that their “concern over future Japan-US relations is increasing.”24

This is doubly dangerous for Abe, as the emptiness of the relationship has been revealed as the prime minister deals with the most serious challenge to his five-year old administration. Two political scandals have been inching closer daily to the Prime Minister’s Office, prompting some observers to question whether they might imperil Abe’s third term as president of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (and thus his tenure as prime minister). Both concern schools—one a nationalist kindergarten in Osaka that Abe and his wife supported; the other a veterinary school run by a friend of Abe—and favors granted to each school owner as a result of his friendship with the prime minister.25 While denying involvement in the scandals, in both cases bureaucracies have withheld and altered documents to distance Abe and his wife from the controversies—and been caught doing so. The steady drip of revelations has done considerable damage to Abe’s standing in opinion polls; his saving grace is the absence of any credible challenger either within his own party or in the opposition.

Increasingly, Abe is burdened with all the liabilities of a close association with Trump and none of the purported benefits. Worse, for all the friendship and bonhomie, when outsiders get a glimpse behind the screen of White House thinking, the scenes are brutal. After their March meeting, several sources reported Trump saying, “I’ll talk to Prime Minister Abe of Japan and others—great guy, friend of mine. There will be a little smile on their face. And the smile is, ‘I can’t believe we’ve been able to take advantage of the United States for so long,’” he continued. “Those days are over.”26

The Trump Hedge

Abe remains committed to securing Japan’s place among the top tier of nations, a goal he outlined after returning to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2013. The primary means to that end is for him, like all his predecessors, a robust and forward-looking alliance with the United States. Yet, Japanese strategists have had to look hard at the viability of that approach since Trump took office. In many ways, the Trump presidency has accelerated or accentuated trends that were already apparent: The most important developments—North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and the rise of China, the spread of its influence, and the closing of the gap between its military capabilities and those of the United States—have been a problem for Japanese strategists (and other like-minded countries) for nearly a decade.

To address them, Abe has reached out to other security partners, most notably Australia and India, strengthening relationships and building ties that were unthinkable over a decade ago. Japan and Australia concluded a Special Strategic Partnership in 2014, but they have not been content with that. In 2017, Tokyo and Canberra concluded a revised Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement, and a year later, in January 2018, Abe and Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull agreed to promote maritime security cooperation, as well as a status of forces agreement that will facilitate joint training and exercises. These efforts are in service of a shared vision of a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,27 and “one of the world’s most well-rounded bilateral relationships.”28

India is another object of Japanese affections. Tokyo and Delhi have long seen each other as natural partners, both somewhat aggrieved at their status in the postwar world order, each bookending a geographically defined Asian space, and both concerned about the rise of China. The bilateral relationship has steadily progressed throughout Abe’s second term, building on a framework that he outlined in a 2007 speech to the Indian Parliament, “The Confluence of Two Seas.”29

The fortification of those relationships, along with the intensification of security ties with Southeast Asian governments, is part of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP), a conceptual framework that Abe has been touting for over a decade and which has gained wider acceptance in recent years.30 As Japanese participants explained at a recent Pacific Forum-CRS conference on the Indo-Pacific, Tokyo seeks to preserve stability, reduce uncertainty, and promote prosperity in the world’s most vibrant region. FOIP aims to constrain countries that would unilaterally change the status quo by promoting maritime security and a “rule-based order” that calls for the adherence of international law and norms and values like democracy, good governance, and respect for the individual. It will promote economic development through connectivity, which will be facilitated by the provision of high-quality infrastructure.

Speakers refrained from specifically identifying the source of uncertainty and the country that was pursuing its “self-centered national interest,” but there was no confusion about who was being referred to: China. Japan has been at the forefront of efforts to raise regional awareness of the threat posed by China’s rise. This is not only a military challenge that comes ever clearer as Beijing builds islands in the South China Sea and pursues modernization of its military, both of which allow it to threaten the sea lines of communication that are Japan’s economic life line, but also an economic challenge. China’s mercantilist policies have tilted the domestic economic playing field in its favor and its companies’ success have helped bankroll programs like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that extend Beijing’s influence well beyond its borders. As a previous issue of The Asan Forum noted, Japan is worried about “the power shift between Washington and Beijing, which is accompanied by a civilizational transfer from the West. US fatigue from the fight against terrorism has accelerated this shift…. sober analysis is needed on how China is filling the vacuum left by the United States, with the danger that any misstep could endanger the country’s existence.”31 It is difficult to appreciate the depth of concern in Japan about China. Strategists and foreign policy analysts see a genuine threat, but so do business executives, who believe that they cannot compete with Chinese companies privileged by the Beijing government’s policies at home and abroad.  

As in the case of North Korea, however, Japanese strategists know that a hard line is not to be confused with recklessness and confrontation for its own sake. Japan would be on the front lines in either a military or an economic conflict. Thus, Japan has also pressed for the resumption of the trilateral Japan-ROK–China process that has been suspended since November 2015 because of political and economic disputes among the three governments. Tokyo hosted the seventh trilateral summit on May 9, 2018, which produced the usual rhetoric in favor of cooperation, but analysis focused on the warming of relations between Tokyo and Beijing, noting that the two governments have been working together on various initiatives for some time. Predictably, observers suggested that Tokyo was hedging against US unreliability,32 but this is, as in other elements of its foreign policy, merely the diversification of options and prudent planning. Tokyo, like other regional governments, should be developing a panoramic foreign policy to anticipate both a weakening of US ability to ensure order, regardless of who the US president is, and the particularities of the Trump presidency.

This impulse is more developed when it comes to economic policy. Abe has recognized the grim reality of US trade policy. The foundation of the Trump economic program—if not its entire international agenda—is a rejection of the multilateralism that has guided US policy-making since the end of World War II. Washington’s attempts to weaken the WTO and pick fights with its various trade partners are proof. Kono Taro made Japan’s thinking clear when he said that US tariffs “could have a grave impact on the economic relationship of Japan and the US… and also on the global economy.” In typical understatement, he added that these steps are “regrettable.”33 Japanese officials have thus far successfully fended off or deflected US demands for a bilateral trade negotiation, but the conventional wisdom in Tokyo is that pressures will intensify as the Trump administration looks for tangible, positive results before the November midterm elections.34

Since Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP during the first week of his presidency, Abe has worked to fill the ensuing gap in international economic leadership, most notably by his pursuit—and realization—of the CPTPP, but also in the conclusion of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement. After an initially hostile reaction to China’s BRI, Abe said “we now look forward to this initiative making contributions … to the peace and prosperity of the region and the world.” That is not a complete reversal—Japanese officials deny that the country will actually join or endorse BRI—but Japan wants to ensure that it incorporates “the thinking held in common by the international community regarding the openness, transparency, economic efficiency, financial soundness, and other such aspects of the infrastructure.”35

Among Japanese partners, South Korea retains a special place. Geography, values, and security alliances continue to compete with history to shape policy in both capitals. The issues that have roiled the relationship with South Korea remain formidable, and ambivalence continues to dominate in feelings toward its neighbor, but recent developments have driven home to Japanese the significance of security ties between Tokyo and Seoul, as the comments made after the Singapore summit make clear. The prospect of a radical shift in US posture to the ROK has had a sobering effect on Japanese thinking. While there continue to be suspicions of some individuals in the Blue House, Foreign Ministry officials acknowledge that Moon has proven to be a realist rather than an ideologue; there is a similar assessment of Foreign Minister Kang. Much now rides on the ROK response to the Trump initiatives and the way it pursues engagement with the North.

Yet as this issue goes to print, old concerns are again ascendant as questions are raised about the December 2015 “comfort women” agreement. On June 18, ROK Foreign Minister Kang announced that her government would work to raise international awareness of violence against women during wartime, a decision that Japan said violates the 2015 deal since both countries agreed to refrain from criticizing each other on international stages. Tokyo considers the ROK campaign a veiled reference to the “comfort women” issue, while Seoul counters that its efforts will not be linked to a particular country, and Japan should not feel attacked.36

If Victor Cha’s thesis is correct,37 and uncertainties about relations with the United States push the two allies to cooperate, then Tokyo’s interest and commitment to a “forward looking agenda” with South Korea is about to intensify. Proof may well be in photos from the next G20 meeting: While Abe will remain as focused as ever on the words of Trump, he may also be edging toward Moon during discussion and deliberation.  

1. See for example:

2. Linda Seig, “Trump giving Japan’s Abe a hard time on trade despite close ties,” May 29, 2018.

3. Sheila Smith and Charles McClean provide a good summary in “US-Japan relations: Trump visits Tokyo amid North Korea Tensions,” Comparative Connections: A Triannual E-Journal on East Asian Bilateral Relations, Vol. 19, No. 3, January 2018, pp 11-18.


5. Megan Cassella, “U.S., China, at a trade standoff,” Politico Morning Trade, June 4, 2018,

6. Shawn Donnan, “Nafta: why the US car industry is caught in Trump’s trade crossfire,” Financial Times, April 15, 2018,

7. Eric Martin, “Mexico turns attention to Japan as NAFTA trade talks at risk,” Bloomberg, June 12, 2018,   

8. Ibid.

9. Fujikawa Megumi, “Japan asserts right with WTO to retaliate against U.S. tariffs,” The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2018.

10. Osaki Tomohiro, “Abe slams U.S. vehicle tariff hikes as ‘unacceptable’ during Diet leaders’ debate,” The Japan Times, May 30, 2108.

11. “Trump cancels Kim summit amid North Korea ‘hostility,’” BBC News, May 24, 2018,

12. Kurashige Nanae, “Abe ready to see Kim, says direct talks best hope on abductions,” Asahi Shimbun, June 13, 2018,

13. Jiji Press, “Suga expresses wish for summit with N Korea,” The Japan News, June 13 2018,

14. Kurashige Nanae, “Abe ready to see Kim.”

15. Ibid.

16. US Department of State, “Press Availability with Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono,” June 14. 2018.

17. “Japan fears huge impact if U.S. halts exercises with S. Korea,” Asahi Shimbun, June 14, 2018,

18. Ibid.

19. Sakajiri Nobuyoshi, “Commentary: Deep concerns over Trump’s rash concessions to North Korea,” Asahi Shimbun, June 13, 2018,

20. “Japan fears huge impact.”

21. Osaki Tomohiro, “Abe slams U.S. vehicle tariff hikes as ‘unacceptable’ during Diet leaders’ debate,” The Japan Times, May 30, 2108.

22. Bruce Stokes, “Troubles with the US relationship,” Pew Research Center, October 17, 2017,

23. Eric Johnson, “Abe and Trump to rekindle friendship, but not all see rapport as positive for Japan,” The Japan Times, November 3, 2017,

24. Genron NPO, “Japan public opinion on US leadership and the role of Japan,” July 13, 2017,

25. Brad Glosserman, “Why Trump could be the final nail in Abe’s coffin,” The Diplomat, March 28, 2018,

26. “How countries won tariff exemptions: Retaliation threats, intense lobbying and an emphasis on alliances,” The Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2018,

27. “Japan, Australia agree to enhance maritime security ties amid rising China,” Kyodo News, January 18, 2018,

28. Andrew O’Neill and David Walton, “The Australia-Japan relationship: worthy of more reflection,” The Lowy Interpreter, October 3, 2017,

29. Speech by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, “Confluence of the Two Seas,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, August 22, 2007, For a picture of the relationship in 2017 and where it was expected to go, see “Toward a Free, Open, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific,” India-Japan Joint Statement during visit of Prime Minister of Japan to India (Sept. 14, 2017),” Ministry of External Affairs of India,  

30. Brad Glosserman, “Making the Indo-Pacific real,” PacNet, No. 18, March 17, 2018,

31. Kawakami Takashi cited in “Country Report: Japan (June 2018),” The Asan Forum, June 7, 2018,

32. Sahashi Ryo, “Japan’s strategic hedging under Trump,” East Asia Forum, June 6, 2017, and Elena Atanassova-Cornelis, “Reconceptualizing the strategic order: Japan’s response to strategic uncertainties in the Asia Pacific,”

33. AFP, “Japan says US tariffs ‘regrettable,’ warns of ‘grave impact,” Straits Times, March 9, 2018,

34. Jiji Press, “Pressure from U.S. over trade may rise,” The Japan News, June 14, 2018,

35. Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet, “Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following his attendance at the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, ASEAN-Related Summit Meeting and Other Related Meetings,” November 14, 2017,  

36. “S. Korea counters Japan criticism,” NHK News, June 19, 2018,

37. Victor Cha, Alliance Despite Antagonism: The US-Korea-Japan Security Triangle (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000).

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