Courtesy Reuters

What Is Next for the Japanese-U.S. Alliance?

Deepening Cooperation, 50 Years Later

Fifty years have passed since January 19, 1960, when Japan and the United States signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. Among other things, the treaty pledges the United States to defend Japan and Japan to provide the U.S. armed forces with bases for the purpose of contributing to the security of Japan and the region. Last month, 50 years to the day after the Treaty was signed, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and U.S. President Barack Obama each issued a statement underscoring the importance of the alliance. Prime Minister Hatoyama committed Japan to working with the United States to further deepen the relationship and said he would "like to present the people of Japan with the results of this work before the end of this year."

Top officials from both sides also issued a joint statement the same day. In it, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates credited the alliance with playing "an indispensable role in ensuring the security and prosperity of both the United States and Japan, as well as regional peace and stability."    

On my desk in Washington sits a silver cigarette box commemorating the signing of the treaty. It is engraved with the signatures of the Japanese officials involved in the deal: Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, Foreign Minister Aiichiro Fujiyama, and others, including my late father who was then the deputy director-general of the Treaties Bureau. Also appearing are the names of U.S. Ambassador to Japan Douglas MacArthur II and his staff. Cigarette boxes like this are largely a thing of the past, and any commemorative memento made today would, given Japan's growth over the last several decades, surely include the signatures of leaders in Washington as well. And so the box reminds me that Japan has come a long way.

The silver box also reminds me that Japanese-U.S. relations can be compared to a box

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