US-Japan Security Treaty

The security treaty between the United States and Japan was signed on January 19, 1960. It is intended to be a mutual defense treaty where in (in the case of Japan), the United States would help Japan should it be attacked by any foreign state. This came 8 years after Japan’s sovereignty was restored after 7 years of occupation by the United States following the end of the Second World War. With regards to strengths and weaknesses – being a security treaty, it is intended to benefit both states in terms of coming to each other’s aid in times of war.

Needless to say, it is supposed to be a win-win deal for both the United States and Japan but looking at it from a different perspective and given the recent developments, it would appear both sides are taking advantage of one another though in different ways. It is not permanent and subject to renewal upon expiration to allow both parties to think over the benefits and issues that came about from the agreement. Should any party feel they are not getting anything, they reserve the right to terminate it by serving notice. This underscores the respect of each other’s sovereignty, particularly for the Japanese.

One apparent weakness of this treaty is that it could hardly be considered mutual in realistic terms. It would appear to benefit the United States more (as stated) before in terms of stationing troops in the country which would appear to be an infringement of Japan’s sovereignty even though it was a fomer wartime enemy defeated by the United States. But it is not one-sided as it made the Japanese economy dominate American markets as Japanese imports come in but American imports cannot enter Japanese markets (Packard, 2010, 94-95).

It can be inferred here that both sides have cancelled each other out with the benefits and deteriments the treaty has caused on each other. Like any nation that treasures its sovereignty, Japan was a nation that was never conquered by a foreign power until the Second World War. Even though they were defeated, they did not consider themselves conquered nor subjugated, nor had it eradicated their cultural and national identity. Their acquiscence of the treaty in 1960 was out of pragmatic concern rather than being submissive to the demands of Washington.

Even after the treaty was signed, there already signs of opposition to the treaty, beginning with left-wingers and now even moderates in recent times are clamoring for the abrogation of the treaty because they feel now that the treaty is an anachronism. As far as regional threats are concerned, the Japanese government believed the threats are still there despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the “mellowing” of China. The threat comes primarily from North Korea in the wake of the ballistic missile tests conducted by Pyongyang, partly to demonstrate their military capability and intimidate its prosperous neighbors, including Japan.

The missiles used can reach Japanese territory as well and could cause greater damaged if equipped with nuclear, chemical or biological warheads (Packard, 2010, 96). It is for this reason that defenders of the treaty justify the continued presence of American forces in the country despite the growing opposition. In terms of benefits and detriments, the treaty gives Japan protection with American miltary presence to ensure it would not be attacked by ambitious nations such as China, North Korea and to a greater extent, the Soviet Union.

The treaty was signed at the height of the Cold War. Since Japan at the time had no armed forces, though it had the nascent Self-Defense Forces, it was not yet fully capable of defending itself from its powerful and ambitious neighbors which necessitated American military assistance. On the distaff side, the United States has another strategic base for its military forces to enable it to project its power globally as the treaty called for the stationing of American forces in the country.

Besides this, Japan is expected to gain more economically by gaining access to the US market as its economy and industries were emerging very strong by this time. As mentioned earlier, both sides appear to take advantage of one another. The Japanese deplore the violation of their sovreignty by American servicement committing crimes but could not be prosecuted because of extraterritorial rights; at the same time, Americans deplore the unfair intercourse of trade as Japanese imports enter American markets while their exports cannot enter their market (Packard, 2010, 92-93).

Despite this, both sides see that the benefits outweigh the detrminents each other experiences. Japan’s current prime minister, Yukio Hayotama is of the Democratic Party of Japan, a party that would hardly be considered pro-American as he is keen on reducing the number of American forces in Japan and focus on fostering closer ties with Asian neighbord. This move can be seen as a balance in trying to maintain friendship with the United States by still permitting them to have bases in Japan despite the need to reduction (Packard 2010, 98-99).

It can be inferred here that there is a love and hate relationship between the US and Japan. This is partly attributed to the clash of cultures of both countries which further causes the friction despite the pragmatic reason that they need each other. This would be no surprise considering they used to be enemies during the Second World War and it would appear that this attitude is still there, sans the belligerence.

But both sides do show a genuine desire to put the past behind and maintain their friendship but so as long as there is that clash of cultures, their relationship would be a rocky one which would affect other aspects of their relationship.


Garten, J. E. (1992). A Cold Peace. New York: Times Books. Nixon, R. (1980). The Real War. New York: Warner Books. Packard, G. R. (2010). “The United States-Japan Security Treaty at 50 – Still a Grand Bargain? ” Foreign Affairs 89 (2). , 92-103.