Call it hidden fear, or genuine positivity towards Trump, Japan is one nation that looked forward to him.
Although Trump plans to change the overall politico-economic strategy of the US, which puts many economies around the world in a vulnerable, if not unhappy position, Japan looked forward to his Presidential role. To express its affection, Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to visit Trump after his election.
In the latest events, Japan sees itself as a major US ally on several issues. Trump’s intention to reduce the country’s regional engagement, including NATO, may indeed affect the relations with powers in the Asia-Pacific region. This, of course, may not be in the best interest of Japan, since China, North Korea and Russia will have more space to act in their favor, which will adversely affect Japan. This is just one side of the story. For Japan, this also could be an opportunity to take more burden on itself and thus become more influential in the region than before. Increasing its defense budget and military capabilities, Japan would not only increase its defensive capability, but become one of the stronger defender of American interests in the Asian continent. Also, with Japan building relationships with all American allies in the region, like India or the other Southeast Asian nations, and with its strengthening role in the NATO, it becomes important for the US to increase its influence in the region as well.
Japan has also been, for years, an important economic partner and one of the top foreign investors in the US, especially in the automotive (cars) industry. This puts an antithetical question to Japan. In light of the recent announcement of the withdrawal of the US from the trade agreements, Japan will face a challenge in showing that it is not actually a trade threat, but on the contrary, a reliable economic partner to the US. Although Japan has invested much time and capital over the past years in the TPP, it may be ready now to build a new trade relationship with America. Say, the two countries could make a bilateral agreement on trade of products of America’s heavy manufacturers, which actually Trump set as his goal. Another possibility of cooperation between Japan and the United States would be on energy trade. Since Japan is highly dependent on imported sources of energy, and the US uses new technologies to tap shale and tight oil, this could be a win-win solution for both countries. Japan would have energy, that currently it obtains from the Middle East, and America would have a large market for its energy exports. Considering the newest OPEC decision of decreasing oil production, this may be just the kind of agreement that would help both the economies.
The best alternative for both countries, presumably, is strong cooperation between them; Japan would have the security and support of America, while America would reinforce its influence in Asia and thus protect its political, economic and military interests. However, what may undermine Japan’s intentions are the newest accusation that Japan, as some other countries, are using monetary policy to devalue the US dollar. It suffices to show that though Japan may try everything to protect its interests through the sometimes expressing its intentions of cooperation with the US, in the end, the one who decides is the US. In any case, there is no question that, during the entirety of Trump’s mandate, the world must get acclimatized to uncertainty.