Strong Partners: Japanese and US Perceptions of America and the World
New data from the Japan Institute of International Affairs and the Council offer insights on how publics in the United States and Japan view the relationship between their countries.
The United States and Japan are close and critical allies for one another, and the US-Japan alliance is viewed by both sides as “the cornerstone of peace, security, and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.” As the United States focuses more of its attention and resources in Asia in response to a rising China, that alliance relationship will only become more important to US strategy.
That strategy is being shaped by Japan’s own thinking about the region. The Quad concept—a closer alignment of Japan, India, Australia, and the United States—was first promoted by Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in 2007 and has since taken a firm hold in US policy discussions. Similarly, the concept of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” has migrated from Tokyo’s strategic planning into Washington’s: the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States, released February 2022, puts the Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept and the role Japan plays in achieving it front and center. Is this increasing alignment between the United States and Japan on policy issues reflected in the views of Americans and Japanese? Based on surveys conducted in the United States and Japan, our research finds a strong base of support, but more division when it comes to the details. Japanese view the alliance positively, are confident in US power, and support a leadership role for the United States in the region and around the world. However, the Japanese public is reluctant to support a greater role for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF), even as it expects the United States to militarily intervene in a range of conflicts—not all of which are supported by the American public.
This survey was conducted prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and does not reflect the rapid changes in the international situation since then.
- Half of Japanese (48%) say the US-Japan alliance benefits both countries, while 37 percent say it mostly benefits Japan.
- Majorities of Japanese say their country should maintain its current commitment to the US-Japan alliance financially (63%) and militarily (55%), and 13 percent support an increased Japanese commitment to the alliance.
- Japanese (47%) are more likely than Americans (23%) to say the United States should play a dominant leadership role in the world. Americans prefer a shared leadership role (69%; 49% among Japanese).
- The Japanese public is more confident in American economic (54%) and military (64%) superiority over China than are Americans (27% and 46%, respectively).
- Half of Americans (50%) and Japanese (49%) say limiting China’s influence around the world is a very important goal.
- A narrow plurality of Japanese (40%) support the SDF providing logistical support, not including the provision of weapons or ammunition, to US forces outside of combat areas, but they oppose other measures, including proposals for the SDF to fight alongside the United States (59% oppose).