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Would Trump Back in the White House Be Dangerous for Japan?

Debunking rumors, a written foreign policy paper of a think tank close to the Trump campaign sheds light on what a second term would mean for Japan and Asia.



Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally ahead of the Republican caucus in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 27, 2024. (©REUTERS/Ronda Churchill)

There appears to be considerable confusion on the Japanese side concerning the initial primary victories by former President Donald Trump in his quest to win the Republican nomination for president. After all, some observers declared Trump to be the biggest loser in the 2023 midterm elections just over a year ago. 

Now, they are warning that Trump is headed back to the White House. The "foreign policies of a second Trump administration" would be dangerous, many pundits would have you believe.

Such criticism of a second Trump administration is not an accurate reading of the current state of United States politics. Instead, it simply reflects their own "anti-Trump" sentiments. 

Asking at the America First Policy Institute

Would isolationism run rampant and the Japan-US alliance break apart under Trump, as is claimed by his critics? I posed that question to a representative of the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), which is allied with the Trump camp.

Former US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event ahead of the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina. On February 14, 2024. (©REUTERS/Sam Wolfe)

The AFPI, headquartered in Washington DC, is a large-scale think tank with over 100 staff members. The chairwoman and president are both former cabinet-level officials in the first Trump administration. AFPI board members and researchers are openly Trump supporters. 

As the "America First" in the name of this policy institute suggests, the Trump campaign out on the campaign trail relies on the AFPI for domestic and foreign policy input.

Focus on the US-Japan Alliance

The AFPI Asia section gave me a peek at its Japan policy document. It's titled, The US-Japan Alliance Will Lay the Foundation for a Successful "America First" Foreign Policy in the 21st Century

The document emphasizes that the military alliance with Japan is essential to the future US Asian policy. It also specifically states that the US-Japan alliance acts as an important deterrent against Chinese military aggression, which is a huge threat to the United States. 


In addition, the lengthy document thanks Japan for strengthening its alliance with the US under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Its appreciation continues, it says, along that path under the Kishida administration

In other words, far from scrapping the Japan-US alliance, a second Trump administration would be determined to maintain and strengthen it. We can probably take this report as a strong predictor of what Trump's policy toward Japan would be if he formed a second administration.

US President Donald Trump greets sailors onboard the JSDF helicopter carrier JS Kaga. May 28, 2019.

Strengthened Ties in Trump's First Administration

The first Trump administration placed great importance on the Japan-US alliance. In fact, the Trump-Abe era saw the most solid and closest alliance ties in the history of the US-Japan relationship. 

It is true that during the campaign before he took office Trump expressed dissatisfaction with the "one-sided" structure of the alliance at that time. He expected the Japanese side would increase its military contribution and strengthen defense cooperation. 

After he entered the White House, however, Trump adopted a slew of realistic measures to strengthen the alliance. Those included steps regarding the defense of the Senkakus.

US President Donald Trump and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet with family members of Japanese abducted by North Korea. At Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, on May 27, 2019. (©REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Unqualified Support on 'Abductions' Issue

Trump's achievement in terms of friendship with Japan was evidenced by his cooperation in seeking a solution to the longstanding problem of North Korea's abductions of Japanese citizens. He showed his dedication to that effort in his appeal for the "release of that sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl" in his 2017 UN General Assembly speech. He followed that with his direct request to Kim Jong Un and frequent meetings with the victims' families. Japanese family members say they will never forget these things and always remain grateful.

To those who decry Trump as an isolationist who would turn his back on international issues, I would also counter with this. By changing the policies of previous US administrations, the first Trump administration adopted a historically strong deterrence posture against China's lawless expansionism. 

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping on Day 2 of the Osaka G20 Summit. (©REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Yoshihisa Komori, Associate Correspondent in Washington, The Sankei Shimbun


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