Managing Editor Jonathan Tepperman interviews Gerald Curtis, Burgess Professor of Political Science at Columbia University, about Japan and its prime minister, Shinzō Abe.
The election of the hawkish Shinzo Abe as Japan's prime minister has the world worrying that Tokyo is about to part with its pacifist strategy of the last 70 years. But Japan's new leaders are pragmatic, and so long as the United States does not waver in its commitment to the country's defense, they are unlikely chart a new course.
Americans who follow trends in Japanese security policies tend to divide into those who see little significant change, particularly in terms of the central importance of the U.S. alliance, and those who believe that Japan is poised to embark on a more assertive and independent course involving independent military capabilities and an important role in regional security. Which view is more nearly correct, and how the balance is struck between autonomy and alliance, are crucially important questions, both in themselves and in terms of U.S.-Japan relations.