Washington and Tokyo updated their military cooperation agreement last fall. But, given the fine print, Japan’s professed willingness to cooperate beyond the defense of its own archipelago means little. Tokyo’s military will not fight or even enter a combat zone, and Japan’s logistics support excludes weapons and ammunition. Moreover, the Japanese government is cutting defense outlays, as well as host‐nation support for the US.
The purpose of the existing security relationship has disappeared. In 1945, Washington was concerned about containing communism after the collapse of wartime Japan. Five decades later, communism has collapsed, while Japan has become an economic powerhouse. Yet, the US continues to bear a disproportionate defense burden, devoting roughly 4 percent of gross domestic product to its military, quadruple Japan’s level.
Equally important, Americans remain at risk in order to guard Japan’s national interests with little or no assistance from Tokyo. This was illustrated by Japan’s tepid support for Washington’s policies toward North Korea and China. Tokyo also has unambiguously stated its opinion of potential conflicts elsewhere in the region — they are America’s problems. This relationship is hardly a serious partnership, let alone a military alliance worth the $20 billion or so it costs the US.