Country Reports

As Donald Trump wreaked havoc in international relations, confusing friend with foe, Japan was not at all immune. Unlike European allies, it was left essentially to fend for itself—with no clear partner. Japanese media registered concern, then alarm, and finally a degree of resignation. The late spring and early summer of 2018—when Trump left Abe and others aghast at the G7, made extravagant claims about his summit with Kim Jong-un, trashed NATO and European allies, and delivered the coup de grace to backers of the international order in a summit with Vladimir Putin—saw coverage of Trump’s policies in Asia and beyond take a dramatic turn. A bedrock of Japanese thinking from the Cold War era was shattered, and there was no sign that it could be rebuilt in the Trump era. Japan “passing” had long been a concern; now it is the nation’s overwhelming preoccupation. Of all challenges, North Korea was foremost, causing a string of shocks from January that grew more alarming through the spring. Abe both redoubled pursuit of Trump and looked elsewhere, as difficult as that proved amid turbulent changes.

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