More than four months ago Dr. Benjamin Carson, one of the unsuccessful Republican presidential candidates in the primary election, withdrew his name and became a supporter of Donald Trump. Dr. Carson was very well respected as a physician and as a human being although, like Mr. Trump, he had no previous political experience.
Because of Trump's lack of political experience and his strong rhetoric, some media and Democrats labeled him unsuitable to become president. Others thought he might upset relationships with important US allies such as Japan. Dr. Carson disagreed with those critics. He said that Trump is a very talented which is reflected in his success as a businessman. Carson said, if elected, Trump would surround himself with wise and talented advisers. I agree and thus believe that Turmp's success will prove to be a good thing for the U.S. - Japan relationship even though many Japanese might doubt it at this time.
First of all Trump is already concerned about Chinese trade practices and has advisers who know China's dangerous military practices well. Several years ago the current US administration announced a well intentioned “Asian Pivot” which has underperformed in protecting freedom of navigation, in preventing bullying of ASEAN countries in the South China Sea and in countering China's offensive towards Japan in he East China Sea. Trump will likely receive sobering advice regarding China from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Dunford and Pacific Commander, Admiral Harry Harris.
Some Japanese think Mr. Trump will push for US allies including Japan to pay more for the upkeep of U.S forces in Japan which Japan can afford. But what a President Trump would really benefit from is an increase in Japan's military capability which Prime Minister Abe has been slowly pursuing.
In 1981 Prime Minister Nakasone and President Reagan agreed that both countries needed to do more to make Asia Pacific deterrence stronger. Mr. Trump realizes the U.S. has done too little defense wise for more than four years. He is pledged to restore America’s military power. The increases in defense spending Mr. Abe has managed to achieve have been minimal and Japan’s capability to complement the US in effectively deterring China is still less than ‘the minimum necessary that Japan legally permits itself. Both Washington and Tokyo need to do more in order to make deterrence more credible, especially to the Chinese.
That's where I believe Mr. Trump should focus. Not on the host nation support. Will he? Time will tell. Mr. Trump’s asking Japan to increase its defense efforts in its own national security interest seems to me to be a very reasonable request which Japan should carefully consider.
(Emeritus Professor, Vanderbilt University)