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The US-Japan Alliance Dilemma in the Asia-Pacific: Changing Rationales and Scope


The changes in the US-Japan alliance are taking place in times of a global power shift – a transition from unipolarity to multipolarity – and China’s challenge to the US’ security dominance in the Asia-Pacific. The alliance security dilemma now manifests itself in the rise of ‘entrapment’ concerns for Washington and ‘abandonment’ anxieties for Tokyo. The US increasingly insists on more mutuality in alliance arrangements, while seeking to maintain ambiguity in its defence commitments to Japan. The relative decline of US power and the fluid regional security architecture, however, incentivise Japan to step up preparations for abandonment. Although Tokyo’s hedging strategy contributes to enhancement of the bilateral alliance in the short term, it also paves the way for Japan’s pursuit of strategic autonomy in the medium to long term.
Keywords: United States, Japan, alliance, hedging, alignment