When one talks about the United States’ relationship with the Far East, emphasis is often placed on China. Yet its increasing friendship with Japan could play a major role in guaranteeing the security of the nation, considering the political situation in North Korea.
Japan’s rapid industrialization
Of all nations on the planet, Japan has perhaps transformed itself more than any since the Second World War. With security guaranteed directly by the United States, the nation which was charred by warfare has transformed itself from a vanquished country into a prosperous and steadfast ally of the United States.
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By many estimations, the sturdy US-Japan relationship has played a significant role in maintaining peace in the Far East region. But despite the efforts to keep that area on an even keel, there are some ominous portents currently looming.
East Asia has become an economic powerhouse over the last thirty to forty years, with first Japan becoming one of the most significant economies on the planet, and then China following suit. Indeed, it was recently reported by the International Monetary Fund that the Chinese economy had exceeded the GDP of the United States. This process has really only just begun, considering that the population of China is roughly five times that of its most obvious economic rival.
In addition to the rise of China, Japan has occupied an important role in the world economy over the last few decades, despite experiencing a massive recession. And production powerhouses such as Taiwan contribute to what is an incredibly important economic area, as do economic links with the Middle East and Oceania.
Yet the region is currently undergoing a transition that could go one of two ways. On the one hand. it could lead to a kind of productive harmony, but on the other we could see a rather debilitating conflict. Add to the mix the fact that many economic analysts believe that the Chinese success story is on the rocks for the first time in recent years, and it is clear that this is a region experiencing dramatic and foreboding issues. Much in the region will depend on the efficacy of the United States and its key Asian allies attempts to alter and influence the changing dynamics of the political and economic landscape.
The relationship between Japan and the United States has unquestionably evolved, with the two nations enjoying a more equal partnership in recent years. After the atrocities and disasters of the Second World War, it was natural for Japan to take something of a diminished position in the international community. However, this has now been overcome, and Japan is very much an economic and political entity.
But a combination of the increasing prominence of China and the unpredictable North Korean regime means that the threat of full-scale nuclear war is perhaps higher than at any other point in human history. When one considers that during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we were effectively one word away from such a conflict, this is a chilling assertion to say the least.
With this in mind, the United States has sought to build an allegiance with South Korea, in an attempt to buttress its influence over the region and prevent any emboldening of the North of the country. Unquestionably, regardless of one’s opinion of the United States’ foreign policy, the current dictatorial regime of North Korea is not one to be admired or tolerated even, and its existence poses security problems for the region as a whole.
U.S. forges South Korean tiess
As the US has acknowledged with its partnership with South Korea, this is not an issue that it can overcome single-handedly. And some analysts believe that a closer and more collaborative relationship with Japan is precisely what is required in order to shape this region more positively in the future.
Japan has taken explicit steps to strengthen its military and defend itself against foreign coercion, and continues to contribute to multilateral security initiatives. Legislation proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would enable Japan to more readily collaborate with the operations of United States forces when the nation is directly challenged.
The proposals in question effectively commit the activation of the new Defense Cooperation Guidelines, which were announced by Japan and the United States earlier this year. This will enable the two nations to integrate their defense efforts more closely, allowing the East Asian nation to play a more significant role in collective action against the increasingly aggressive and authoritarian North Korea.
Although the activity of the United States in the world is often criticized, and not without good reason, it is difficult to be too critical of any policy that dampens down North Korean hawkishness or expansion. The government of North Korea is quite rightly one of the most reviled on the planet, and any peaceful steps that can be taken to neuter its influence must be viewed as positive.