The rapid deterioration of ties between South Korea and Japan not only undercuts America's Indo-Pacific strategy, it also increases the risks to U.S. allies and partners in the region. Just how consequential is the growing South Korea–Japan tension for U.S. strategy and what is Washington doing to address the issue?
Key U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific have been strengthening their defense ties with regional actors over the past two decades. To what extent is this a response to the perceived threat of a rising, assertive China? And how will these new commitments affect the United States?
The world's attention will be fixed on Japan as it hosts the Rugby World Cup in September and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Japan's cyber defenses will need to be strong enough to keep attackers out and resilient enough to restore systems should things go wrong.
In early April, Japan deployed its Self-Defense Forces (SDF) abroad to join a multinational force not connected to the United Nations. This is the first time that SDF personnel will participate in overseas peacekeeping operations not under UN control. The difference may not seem important, but it is.
The United States has been consistent in discussing the security objectives it seeks to promote through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. But U.S. interactions with other Quad partners have likely convinced Washington to repackage public presentation of the dialogue proceedings and manage its expectations of what the Quad can realistically achieve.
Recent meetings and otherwise relative calm between China and Japan may give the impression that their ties are improving. But because of their strategic competition and fundamental differences, it is more likely than not that their current rapprochement will fail.
Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan has significantly increased capabilities to meet increasing regional security challenges. But Tokyo may need to do more to manage the complex security environment surrounding Japan.
China has stepped up its vessel and air activities near the disputed Senkaku Islands. Japan has made posture changes and increased the quantity of aircraft and radar in the region, but it does not have the resources to match Chinese air activity. And since it's an issue of domestic air sovereignty, the U.S. is limited in what it can do to assist Japan.
Even in its resurrected form, the Quad could be in danger of failing to achieve its mission. The Quad might consider getting its house in order by extending dialogue partnerships to ASEAN maritime counterclaimant states.
Shinzo Abe has cemented his position as Japan's prime minister for the next three years. Now he is expected to make a concerted push for revising the Constitution, which has not been amended since 1947. But the Japanese public is not convinced of the need to revise the Constitution, making his efforts likely to fail.
Japan has not possessed an aircraft carrier in more than 70 years. But that may soon change as the Japanese government is debating retrofitting a class of destroyers to turn them into aircraft carriers. Considering both operational needs and resources limitations, does an aircraft carrier for Japan make sense?
The Olympic Games are an attractive target for hackers. An examination of Japan's cybersecurity threat landscape and lessons from past events can help planners reduce cybersecurity risks in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Washington and Beijing seem prepared to begin decoupling from one another economically, which puts Tokyo in a difficult position. Japan may have to devise new strategies not only for sustaining its growth, but also for insulating itself from the impact of deteriorating relations between the United States and China.