With the Trump administration getting cosier with Japan, what it means for the geopolitics of the region.
By Asian Review Staff
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arriving at Pearl Harbor-Hickam Joint Base in Hawaii. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit the memorial that honours the US soldiers killed during Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941.
With an overwhelming
welcome to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the U.S President has set the high table
for progressive bilateral negotiations and the former in high spirits to ‘wrap
his head around’ Trump. Arrival of Abe for the first U.S-Japan bilateral
summit, hints at Trump’s pragmatic and upfront attitude to deal with the big
players in the region, post U.S’ withdrawal from the Trans-pacific partnership.
This summit is preceded by Abe and Trump’s unofficial meeting in New York last
November, shortly after Trump’s victory in the presidential election.
Abe, with prior
experience in dealing with aggressive and protectionist businessmen has adopted
a moderate approach, so far, towards Trump administration. Japan’s silence on
Trump’s controversial immigration ban, alongside proliferating signals to boost
trade and commercial ties with the United States, presaged Abe’s single-minded
attitude towards dealing smoothly with Trump’s United States.
As Trump’s willingness
to question long-standing defence commitments and his refusal from partaking in
trans-pacific trade deal, to an extent, strained U.S-Japan ties for a while.
With a touch of personal greetings and Trump’s warm embrace at the White House,
of Prime Minister Abe, the frazzled bonds have fast-tracked into productive
channels. Hosting the Prime Minister at the White House, Trump maintained,
“We’re committed to the security of Japan. The bond between our two nations and
the friendship between our two peoples runs very, very deep. This
administration is committed to bringing those ties even closer”.
Moreover, eager to
have Trump by its side, Japan has taken proactive steps - Masayoshi Son,
Japanese tech billionaire has promised to invest over $50 billion and create
50,000 jobs in the U.S. Alongside the Japanese government’s Facebook page has
been featuring posts on Japan’s contribution to the American life- designers
behind interior of New York subway cars, the pediatric cardiologist for Miami
babies with heart problems among others. Even before Abe’s accession, Japan has
to a great extent, re-configured his approach towards United States: surging
Japanese imports, hiring maximum Americans, with over $373 billion investment
in the U.S by 2014.
At this juncture,
North Korea ballistic missile test-first provocation by North Korea since Trump
took over- provides a common ground to showcase collective response by Abe and
Trump. Abe, at a briefing with Trump in Florida, said the missile test ‘can
absolutely not be tolerated’ and have urged North Korea to fully comply with
United Nations Security Council resolutions. In such tested times, Trump’s
strong partnership stands crucial to Abe’s safe governance- at home- as well as
in the regional biosphere.
Further, on the
conflicting issue of uninhabited East China Sea islets claimed by China and
Taiwan, Trump has committed to back Japan. In the joint statement, the leaders
said ‘they oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s
administration of these Islands’.
Taking a step forward,
Obama became the first U.S president to make a prolific commitment in the
public sphere in April 2014. “ We oppose any unilateral actions that would seek
to undermine Japan’s administration of the Islands”, an official on a condition
of anonymity, said. Such a pronouncement was indicative of United States aim to
confront China repeated intrusion in the territorial waters around the islands
This has to be
analyzed in juxtaposition with Trump’s evolving negotiations with China. In a
recent telephonic conversation with the Chinese President, Trump has agreed to
support the ‘One China’ policy, which he earlier brought under scepticism
implying closer ties with Taiwan.
In such scenario,
there is an urgency for Trump’s administration, for greater economic and
security partnership, to maintain strategic relation with both China and
Japan-two big players in the Indo-Pacific region and emerging economic drivers
in the global scenario. While it serves well for Japan to collide with China,
advocated by the United States, the latter has to make crucial calls when dealing
with the second largest economy of the world.
troubled rhetoric towards Japan on the campaign trail, Trump has seized the
chance to keep Abe in his good books, let alone with extensive golfing sessions
at Florida gold course. It is for the members of the Indo-Pacific to cautiously
guard their foreign policy stance amidst growing bilateral and trilateral
treaties, where Japan, China and the United States grow as major stakeholders.
The views expressed here are those of the author alone and not the Asia Council.