Just as U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats imply a vague policy outcome without any actionable specifics, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Make Alliance Even Greater” hats, presented to Trump during his visit to Japan last week, exemplify an alliance that has worthy goals but hazier details, in particular regarding North Korea.
At the working level, the U.S.-Japan alliance has been moving towards improved interoperability, more strategic coordination, and more active partnership from the Japanese side for years, and there will continue to be room for development. But at summits that signal an overall direction for the alliance, Trump’s statements are characteristic of the most persistent roadblock for progress: a gulf between what Japan can – and should – realistically do in the partnership, and what the U.S. wants.
This article was originally published by The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs on November 18, 2017. Read the full article here.