The Autonomy‒Alignment Trade-Off: Japan’s Evolving Defense Posture

Lauren Richardson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Tokyo’s defense doctrine and behavior have undergone a number of significant shifts under the Abe administration. These have occurred against the backdrop of declining U.S. power in Asia and, more recently, the Trump administration’s idiosyncratic “America First” policy. These developments thus raise questions about Tokyo’s strategic orientation and the continued durability of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Is Tokyo hedging against possible U.S. strategic abandonment of Japan and shifting toward a more independent defense posture? Drawing on interviews with government officials in 2019, it is argued here that the recent evolution of Japan’s defense policy has instead been premised on the continuation of the alliance as the core of its national security strategy. The U.S.-Japan security relationship has therefore been conducted primarily under the framework of traditional alliance management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-39
Number of pages13
JournalAsian Politics and Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


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