This chapter will discuss the legacy of the Obama administration of 2009–17 for US–Japan relations. It will highlight elements of change and continuity that characterised the Obama years in the realms of security and economic policy, as well as the significance of historical memory and the processes of reconciliation between the two countries. It will also discuss policy shifts promoted by the administration of President Donald Trump at around the halfway mark of his 2017–21 presidential term in office. The Trump presidency, it is argued, has
Matthew Hunt, Sharon O’Brien, Patrick Cadwell and Dónal P. O’Mathúna
393 – 410 .
P. ( 2016 ), ‘ A Place for
Translation Technologies in Disaster Settings: The Case of the 2011 Great
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Conflict and Communication: A Changing Asia in a Globalising
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This edited volume explores the political, economic and security legacies former
US President Barack Obama leaves across Asia and the Pacific, following two
terms in office between 2009 and 2017. The aim is to advance our understanding
of Obama’s style, influence and impact by interrogating the nature and contours
of US engagement throughout the region, and the footprint he leaves behind.
Moreover, it is to inform upon the endurance of, and prospects for, the legacies
Obama leaves in a region increasingly reimaged in Washington as the
Indo-Pacific. Contributors to the volume examine these questions in early 2019,
at around the halfway point of the 2017–2021 Presidency of Donald Trump, as his
administration opens a new and potentially divergent chapter of American
internationalism. The volume uniquely explores the contours and dimensions of US
relations and interactions with key Indo-Pacific states including China, India,
Japan, North Korea and Australia; multilateral institutions and organisations
such the East Asia Summit and ASEAN; and salient issue areas such as regional
security, politics and diplomacy, and the economy. It does so with contributions
from high-profile scholars and policy practitioners, including Michael
Mastanduno, Bruce Cumings, Maryanne Kelton, Robert Sutter and Sumit Ganguly. The
volume will be of interest to students and scholars of the international
relations of Asia and the Pacific, broadly defined; US foreign policy and global
engagement; the record and legacies of former President Barack Obama; and the
foreign policies of the administration of President Donald Trump.
force planted in the middle of a divided Germany.
Security depended heavily on the Americans. Europeans lacked the geopolitical leisure or resources for a big independent role in Asia. With the
Americans occupying and protecting Japan, East Asia’s postwar political
climate was set by its own Cold War – by the antipathies between the United
States, China and Russia. China, isolated and paranoid, was left to the
domestic preoccupations of its Revolution.
The end of the Cold War saw this postwar geopolitical situation radically
changed. All parties
the region (of which China disapproved), and helped tighten the security relationship between the Republic of South Korea (ROK) and Japan. Frustrations in Washington over North Korea intensified towards the end of Obama’s second administration as bipartisan support for a more assertive or aggressive policy grew. Obama therefore set the stage for a more aggressive American stance for his successor to the White House, yet no one anticipated the intensity of the rhetoric which President Donald Trump would employ as he threatened ‘fire and fury’ and total annihilation
the Obama administration. A US–Japan joint statement from 2014 stated that ‘the two countries view the East Asia Summit as the premier political and security forum in the region’. 7 A joint statement from the United States and India in 2015 went further, asserting that ‘we commit to strengthening the East Asia Summit … to promote regional dialogue on key political and security issues, and to work harder to strengthen it’. 8
The Obama administration’s interest and subsequent commitment to the EAS and the ADMM+ process went beyond simply joining and showing up. The
rewards inherent in such an approach.
While American abandonment of multilateralism may allow striking favourable new bilateral deals in the region – China, North Korea and Japan seem to be high on the list – the riskiness of the approach poses potentially catastrophic risk for Asia as a whole, if not the world. Win or lose, it risks changing for the worse the perceived character of the United States in the eyes of its allies and confirms the claims of its enemies and adversaries that America is a predatory force. This approach – coming at a time and in a region which
interactions with US power and influence experienced by China, the Philippines and Australia, to name just three – including at various points throughout their own histories – make single, uniform designations such as empire or hegemony analytically problematic. With its devastating defeat and occupation by the United States in 1945 and the subsequent rewriting of its constitution by American officials, for example, Japan has been more exposed to violently imperialistic dimensions of American military and political power than almost anywhere else. Yet Japan formally retained
Obama, Trump and the Asia Pacific political economy
-orienting of former adversaries – Germany in Europe and Japan in Asia – into partners supportive of US-inspired economic and security orders. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, post-war administrations sought to broaden and deepen the US hegemonic order. The United States cast itself as indispensable to global order and as the self-appointed regional stabiliser in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It sought to entice Russia and China, despite not being US security allies, to follow the post-war German and Japanese examples and partner with Washington in support of an
problems required diplomatic and multilateral solutions.
Obama billed himself “the first Pacific President” in November 2009, and first announced his Pivot to Asia in November 2011. Michael Green argues that Barack Obama was not actually the first Pacific president, but the first to pursue a genuinely Asia-first strategy. 18 Regardless, it is no coincidence that Obama’s first foreign visitor was Japanese Prime Minister Tarō Aso. South Korean President Myung-Bak Lee received the Obama administration’s first formal state visit, and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton