By Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center
Special to Foreign Policy
This is a pivotal year in U.S.-Japan relations. As the two nations mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in August, it is a moment for both the American and Japanese publics to reflect on the past — but also, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting the United States in late April, to take the temperature of the current bilateral relationship and to consider its future.
As both countries face the rising strategic and economic challenge posed by China, the United States is explicitly rebalancing its international posture toward Asia. Japan has fractious relations with U.S. ally South Korea over unresolved issues involving their mutual history, and with U.S. adversary China over both history and territorial disputes. At the same time, to the consternation of both Seoul and Beijing, Tokyo is debating a more active role in collective regional security. And the United States and Japan are the key economies in an unprecedented effort — known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership — to broaden and deepen trade and investment among Pacific countries that account for more than one-third of the world’s GDP. How the American and Japanese people see these issues may go a long way toward framing the ongoing relationship of these onetime foes and now longtime allies.
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