If a Biden administration enters office in January, it will find Japan a more independent and confident ally in the early stages of executing a subtle course correction. To be sure, the U.S.-Japan alliance will still be called the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in a free-and-open Indo-Pacific region. But for all the apparent continuity between Abe and his longtime right hand, Suga, Japan is searching for more stability: with a different U.S. leadership that is more predictable; with an assertive China that is not just competitive but also cooperative on some trade, development, and global issues; and with a shifting international arena in which the game is shifting still further in the direction of geoeconomics, high technology, and climate change. The alliance with the United States will remain a pillar of Japan’s policy under Suga, but that does not mean that Japan plans to stand by and watch the further demolition of the international order it has helped to construct. Suga is preparing to create longer-term stability for Japan. None of this is new, but a course correction will be significant for the United States, even though it has no direct bearing on the U.S. election outcome.
This is the second part of a two-part series. The first part was published on Oct. 4.
Dr. Patrick M. Cronin is the Asia-Pacific Security Chair at the Hudson Institute.