As long as Japan’s contribution was highly valued by the United States and America enjoyed a preponderance in economic, military and technological power vis-à-vis Japan, this asymmetry facilitated stable and mutually agreeable patterns of bargaining and trading.1

Although the United States encouraged the adoption in 1947 of Japan ’s “Peace Constitution,” which contains in Article IX a renunciation of war as a sovereign right of the state, by 1950 concerns about Soviet military power and intentions had led the United States to alter its stance. From that time the major thrust of America’s Japan policy was to work toward solidifying Japan’s membership in the “Western” camp allied against Soviet expansion. One element of this policy involved encouraging Japan to increase its industrial and military capabilities. Another element was to work to ensure domestic Japanese political support for a continued U.S. military presence in Japan. U.S. forward deployment in Northeast Asia became important with the fall of China and the outbreak of the Korean War, and it has remained so. Japan became the key strategic partner for the United States in Asia, and the relationship has been seen as central to long-term Asian stability.2

Japanese policy has accommodated these American objectives. While opposition to large scale rearmament in Japan has continued over the postwar period, limited rearmament enjoyed initial support among Japanese conservatives, and the Self Defense Forces have gained greater public acceptance over time. The alliance with the United States and the stationing of U.S. forces in Japan have attracted vocal opposition in Japan at times. However, the alliance has generally enjoyed support across a range of policymakers and opinion leaders in Japan, as well as generally increasing support (or at least acquiescence) from the general public.

The Japanese conservatives of the Liberal Democratic Party, who enjoyed parliamentary majorities continuously from 1955 until 1993, pursued a policy of supporting the U.S.-Japan alliance and gradually increasing Japan’s military capabilities.3 Consistent support for the alliance, general acquiescence to U.S. political leadership in major international issues, and a forward position near the Asian land mass were the primary Japanese contributions to the U.S.-Japan relationship. In return the United States provided a security guarantee to Japan and tolerated asymmetrical economic and technological relationships because they were seen to advance overall U.S. interests.

Figure 2-1 illustrates the fundamental trade-offs in the relationship up to about 1980. From the standpoint of U.S. interests, the two salient points about this structure were (1) U.S. politico-military interests drove overall national strategy and policy toward Japan, and (2) in pursuing these interests, there was almost no opposition in the United States to trading off economic and technological assets, because prior to the late 1970s the United States was presumptively stronger than Japan economically and technologically.

During most of the 1950-1980 period, achieving market access and other concrete forms of economic reciprocity with Japan were not seen as important U.S. interests. Indeed, particularly in the early postwar years, providing economic and technological benefits to help build Japan into


Originally and as revised in 1960, the security relationship itself is fundamentally asymmetrical; the United States is obligated to come to the defense of Japan if the latter is attacked, but Japan is under no such obligation if the United States is attacked.


See U.S. Department of Defense, United States Security Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), particularly p. 10.


Conservative rule even preceded formation of the LDP. Except for a brief period when the Japan Socialist Party led the government, conservative parties held power in Japan from the time that elections were resumed during the U.S. occupation.

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