Foreign Policy Blogs

US warned Japan about foreign policy

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the United States warned then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in 2009 about Japan’s wavering bilateral ties. The quotes came from cables posted to WikiLeaks.

Assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Kurt Campbell complained in October 2009 that Hatoyama told his Chinese and South Korean counterparts in Beijing that Japan depended on the U.S. too much. Cambell told Japanese parliamentary defense secretary Akihisa Nagashima that such remarks “would create a crisis in U.S.-Japan relations. … Imagine the Japanese response if the U.S. government were to say publicly that it wished to devote more attention to China than Japan.”

A cable dated Dec. 10, 2009, showed that U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos told then-Japanese land minister Seiji Maehara that the United States had “a problem” with Hatoyama telling Obama to trust him over the relocation of the Futenma Air Station “but not following through.”

Maehara, a conservative and pro-U.S. lawmaker, told Roos, “There were only two countries who enjoyed watching what was currently happening to the U.S.-Japan alliance–China and (North Korea).”

I’ve noticed a trend in recent years in which Japanese politicians seek to distance Tokyo from Washington, as evidenced by these WikiLeaks. Many Japanese people, even in the mainstream, view Japan’s policies as being dictated by the U.S., describing their own country as “America’s baby.” A lot of Japanese people, not just right-wing nationalists, believe Japan should rely less on the U.S. and adopt a more confrontational foreign policy.

I can understand the desire for a more independent foreign policy. It would be hard for the people of any country to view their politics as being dictated by a foreign power, especially a former enemy. However I think severing ties with the U.S. for Japan would be like trying to prove how strong they are by punching themselves in the face. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has defended Japan and provided a market for Japanese exports. With Japan not having to worry about repercussions from its Asian neighbors for its recent imperial campaigns (thanks to U.S. forces stationed in Japan) and freed to focus on its export-based economy (again thanks to a ready U.S. market), the U.S. helped Japan become the world’s second-largest economy. Japan would by hurting itself by severing ties with the U.S. Like Seiji Maehara said, the main benefactors of a severing of American and Japanese ties would be China and North Korea.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

Visit him online at
E-mail him: [email protected]