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

On April 12th, 2024, the Mansfield Foundation hosted a roundtable discussion featuring Dr. Takuya Matsuda (University of Tokyo) on the role of alliances, with a focus on the U.S.-Japan alliance in an age of great power competition. This was followed by remarks from discussant Dr. James Brady (Teneo), and a Q&A with attendees.

Dr. Matsuda began the discussion by highlighting three key points: 1) alliances as a means to project power, 2) the development of regional approach contingency planning and 3) the challenges that lie ahead. For his first point, Dr. Matsuda explained that historically, Japan had been passive with regards to its foreign policy and did not invest much in security. However, Dr. Matsuda noted that in order to maintain and enhance power, Japan has been investing more in security and defense as well as multilateral and operational joint alliances. For his second point, Dr. Matsuda noted the significance of the U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral relationship. Although many U.S. allies have the same strategic goals, they have different priorities when it comes to defense. Thus, trilateral relationships, including the U.S.-Japan-ROK partnership, is a step toward developing regional approach contingency plans. Dr. Matsuda concluded by explaining there are still many challenges for the U.S.-Japan alliance, including addressing contested areas, vulnerabilities, sustainability, and dispersing forces.

This was followed by a short discussion between Dr. Matsuda and Dr. Brady, where they discussed Japan’s response to the current security challenges compared to the Gulf War. Dr. Matsuda noted that during the Gulf War, Japan was not expected to take part, and thus its aid focused on burden sharing. However with the changing security environment and China’s modernization, Japan realized it needed to alter its approach to security and defense. When asked how Japan’s strategic environment could look thirty years from now, Dr. Matsuda noted Japan needs to invest in defense and security wisely as it currently lacks the proper foundation.

The event concluded with a Q&A with the audience. This portion covered a variety of topics, such as institutionalization of Japan-ROK cooperation, the future difficulties that the two countries may face in the area of defense, shifts in Japanese public opinion, the possibility of revising Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, and the possibility of a U.S.-Japan integrated command center.