Alliance durability and intra-alliance security dilemma: a case study of the U.S.-Japan alliance in the light of rising China
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In recent years, the East-Asian security order has been witnessing a number of disturbances stemming from increased assertiveness of regional security actors, such as North Korea and, to a lesser extent, China. More specifically, the escalation of tensions between China and Japan over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands has called into question the very viability of the U.S. “hub and spoke” alliance system in the region, with the 60 year old U.S.-Japan alliance at its core. As a relic of bipolar Cold War great power competition, today the alliance faces increasingly complex and uncertain security environment, which effectively challenges the very foundations of the widely celebrated trustworthiness and durability of the security ties between the two nations. Against this background, the thesis conducts a thorough examination of a salient episode, which has occurred and subsequently disturbed the established modes of operation within the U.S.-Japan alliance. In particular, the overarching aim of the study is: a) to uncover and assess the effect exerted by the intensification of an external threat (China) on the severity of intra-alliance security dilemma, with an eroding balance in entrapment-abandonment fears among the allies; b) how this phenomenon have manifested itself throughout the course of the Senkaku contingency; and c) what the identified anxiety-driven processes hold for the enduring quality of the U.S.-Japanese security cooperation. Grounded in theoretical expectations largely derived from the realist school of thought, the paper concludes that, chiefly consistent with realist thinking, the Senkaku crisis and the respective behaviour of allies does point to: 1) the upsurge of intra-alliance security dilemma; 2) the importance of fluctuations in triangular Sino-American-Japanese relationship for the magnitude of abandonment anxiety experienced by the weakest pole in the triangle (Japan); 3) the mitigating role of institutionalization on alliance ties plagued by twin abandonment-entrapment anxieties. Yet, the paper also discovers, contrary to Morrow’s (1991) expectations, the preservation of asymmetrical nature of the alliance, as reflected in high degrees of weaker ally’s direct dependence, in all likelihood, would be detrimental to alliance durability, due to the importance attached to acquired reputations for reliability in the minds of state leaders. Hence, it becomes evident that phenomena such as sustained alliance durability and intensity of intra-alliance security dilemma cannot be fully captured by one all-encompassing realist approach; instead, any future inquiries into the topic of alliance durability would significantly benefit from a harmonious merging of insights from different schools of thought.
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