Courtesy Reuters

The United States and Japan: The Bilateral Potential

In the tangled international tapestry certain relationships dominate the pattern. The U.S.-Soviet struggle has colored almost all world politics for a generation. Franco-German entente has ended centuries of European warfare. One relationship which holds much potential for improving world conditions is that between Japan and the United States. This bilateral relationship, conducted within a dense multilateral web in which each nation has many other ties based on interest and sentiment, is now, and will be increasingly, central to any proper functioning of the world economy and polity.

These two nations, so drastically different in history, culture, geographic size and location, outlook and temperament, have been thrust together in an unlikely partnership. They must simultaneously reorder their bilateral arrangements while improving their skills of international leadership. The United States must learn to rely more on the power of persuasion and become more sensitive to the legitimate interests of others. Japan must give up its small-nation mentality. Moreover, each nation can help the other in this, and in cooperation they can help guide the world through one of its most dangerous and exciting eras.

In today's climate it may seem farfetched to speak of Japan and the United States working in close collaboration. Angry comments from senior officials in both countries reverberate, and the economic struggle between Japanese and American firms at times seems relentless and even vicious. American doubts about the fairness of Japanese competition are met by Japanese questions as to the continued vitality of the American economy. Are not these two voracious economies likely to become bitter competitors for the world's markets and the world's dwindling resources? Can nations which start from such different notions of the role of the individual, the group and the state really mesh their systems in a sustained way?

In the evolution of U.S.-Japanese relations, one thing is certain: the nature of that relationship in the coming decades will not only be of the greatest importance to both nations but also

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