Shorenstein APARC's U.S.-Asia Security Initiative Gathers Experts to Discuss Challenges to U.S.-Japan Alliance


Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono, Ambassador Michael Armacost, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, and Ambassador David Shear
(Seated at table, from left to right: Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono, Ambassador Michael Armacost, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, and Ambassador David Shear)


When U.S. Vice President Michael Pence recently met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, he declared that “The United States-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the Indo-Pacific.” Examining U.S.-Japan security relations is a priority of Stanford’s U.S.-Asia Security Initiative (USASI) at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. Just days prior to the Vice President’s remarks, USASI and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) co-hosted the 2018 the U.S.-Japan Security and Defense Dialogue Series, where a key theme was coordination and cooperation in the long-standing U.S.-Japan security relationship.

Held in Tokyo from January 31 through February 2, this workshop convened senior Japanese and American policymakers, military leaders, scholars, and regional experts to discuss Japan's security strategy and the alliance between Japan and the United States. It is part of a dialogue series that deepens a discourse on contemporary Asia-Pacific security issues, while building bridges between American and Asian academics, government and military officials, and other defense and security policy specialists. Over the course of three days, core participants held frank discussions with scholars, government officials, and military leaders from both countries about the status of the U.S.-Japan security alliance given the present array of challenges in the region; met in private with key members of the Japanese government and the United States Embassy; and also engaged in candid conversations with military leaders that analyzed Japanese and American combined military planning and operations.

“This year’s workshop was the second meeting of the US-Japan Security and Defense Dialogue Series,” said USASI Director, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. “It continues to be an excellent venue for the exchange of views between government and military officials, academics, and those with policy experience on U.S.-Japan security relations.”

Workshop Co-Host, Lieutenant General Noboru Yamaguchi, Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (Retired) and Special Advisor to the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, commented: "The issues we discussed were timely and important as the security environment surrounding the alliance is serious and cooperation among Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea, and other partners, while improving, has a long way to go."

Solidifying the U.S. Alliance with Japan

General Vincent Brooks, Commander, UNC/CFC/USFK; Ambassador David Shear; Ambassador Michael Armacost; and Workshop Co-Hosts Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Lieutenant General, (Retired) Noboru Yamaguchi

(From left to right: General Vincent Brooks, Commander, UNC/CFC/USFK; Ambassador David Shear; Ambassador Michael Armacost; and Workshop Co-Hosts Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Lieutenant General, (Retired) Noboru Yamaguchi)

Day One of the dialogue saw participants engage in a series of frank discussions on many of the challenges facing the U.S.-Japan security alliance, including American and Japanese assessments of security trends in East Asia; training, operations, and strategic planning between the U.S. and Japan armed forces; and security cooperation and instability on the Korean Peninsula.

“The Workshop is an unique opportunity for participants to share their views on political, economic, and security developments in the Indo-Pacific area,” reflected Ambassador Eikenberry. “It provides a way for the United States and Japan to explore ways to achieve the shared goal of maintaining peace and prosperity in the region.”

Visits with U.S. Mission and Japan Foreign Minister

Highlights for Day Two included a meeting between core dialogue participants and key officials at the U.S. Embassy in Japan, including Ambassador William Hagerty. The day ended with a consultation with Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono. APARC faculty and affiliates at that meeting included Ambassador Eikenberry, Ambassador Michael Armacost, USASI Associate Director Dr. Belinda Yeomans, and visiting scholar Dan Sneider.

“The diversity of the participants made the dialogue especially interesting,” said Ambassador Armacost. “The presentations and comments were both thoughtful and practical.” The frank and open dialogue about the operation of the U.S.-Japan security alliance, noted Sneider, covered topics ranging “from the broad strategic level to the nitty gritty issues of alliance coordination and cooperation. Both Japanese and American participants have found this to be refreshing and revealing.”

Fleet Activities Yokosuka

Commander of the Japanese Self-Defense Fleet, Vice Admiral Kazuki Yamashita

(Meeting with Commander of the Japanese Self-Defense Fleet, Vice Admiral Kazuki Yamashita)


The 2018 U.S.-Japan Security and Defense Dialogue Series closed with a group of the U.S. and Japanese participants visiting United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka. There, they met with the Commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, and had a working lunch aboard USS Chancellorsville. They subsequently toured the Memorial Ship Mikasa (famous for serving as Admiral Togo’s flagship during the Russo-Japanese War) and met with the Commander of the Self-Defense Fleet, Vice Admiral Suzuki Yamashita at his headquarters. The conversations throughout the day focused on the importance of the alliance and the challenges of conducting combined U.S.-Japanese naval and joint operations.

Chatham House Rule applied to the dialogue, but a workshop report with no direct attribution or remarks will soon be made available to the public.

June 2018 Update: the 2018 workshop report is now published. Read it now.

A Japanese version of the workshop report is also available.

The report from the inaugural U.S.-Japan Security workshop of May 2016 is also available. 

The U.S.-Asia Security Initiative is part of Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC). Led by former U.S. Ambassador and Lieutenant General (Retired) Karl Eikenberry, USASI seeks to further research, education, and policy relevant dialogues at Stanford University on contemporary Asia-Pacific security issues.

U.S.-Japan Security and Defense Dialogue Series: Participants and Schedule