Connecting People & Ideas to Advance Mutual Interests in U.S.-Asia Relations

On February 23, 2024 the Mansfield Foundation hosted Dr. Naoko Aoki (Rand Corporation), Benjamin Goldberg (U.S. State Department), and Dr. Anand Rao (SUNY Geneseo) for a roundtable discussion moderated by Emma Chanlett-Avery (Asia Policy Institute) addressing the implications and potential impact of the 2024 U.S. presidential election on the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Mr. Goldberg began the conversation highlighting four key points regarding U.S.-Japan relations in the context of the upcoming elections: 1) the U.S.-Japan alliance is currently very strong in the areas of economic, defense, and security cooperation; 2) the alliance is in good standing regardless of the outcome of the U.S. presidential election due to the increase in Japan’s defense and international spending, as well as U.S.-Japan cooperation in trade and investment; 3) Japan is preparing for the election outcome, regardless; and 4) Japan is also in the process of various elections, with three taking place in 2024.

Dr. Rao continued the discussion highlighting Japan’s concerns regarding the United States’ upcoming election. He discussed how Japan fears the possibility of abandonment by the United States given threats from China and North Korea, specifically highlighting concern that the United States will renege on their security agreements. He asserted that Japan will do what they can in order to prevent this outcome.

Wrapping up the discussion, Dr. Aoki discussed the potential changes that could occur after 2024. She first highlighted three main points regarding potential challenges for the United States including: 1) the potential general policy changes regarding alliance such as burden sharing policies; 2) the unpredictability and uncertainty regarding U.S. international policies; and 3) the general public’s skepticism regarding the utility of alliances. Dr. Aoki then discussed the impact current political issues will have on Japan, highlighting the implications for defense, regional implications, improvement of communication channels, and cooperation between defense industries.

During the Q&A portion, the three speakers discussed how Japan could prepare for the upcoming election. Due to the concerns regarding abandonment, Mr. Goldberg and Dr. Aoki noted how institutionalization would potentially make alliances more secure. Dr. Aoki also mentioned how Japan could engage with the United States in the field of industrial cooperation. When asked about the potential challenges regarding U.S.-Japan relations, Mr. Goldberg noted the possible cancellation of the Nippon Steel deal due to U.S. pressure, while Dr. Rao expressed that the United States should be cautious when engaging in overreach. In addition, the speakers discussed the future of Japan’s relationships with Taiwan, South Korea, and North Korea.

This event was generously supported by the Embassy of Japan in the United States of America.