Japanese Political Circles Are Paying Close Attention to Whether Trump Will Win the 2024 Election

Japanese Political Circles Are Paying Close Attention to Whether Trump Will Win the 2024 Election
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump at the G-20 Osaka Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (Brendon Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The 2024 U.S. presidential election has become the focus of global attention, and Japanese politicians generally believe that former President Donald Trump has a high probability of being re-elected, and are considering how to better cooperate with him. However, there are also concerns that President Trump’s “America First” policy will weaken Japan-U.S. relations.

Some analysts advised that Japan does not need to worry about the U.S.-Japan alliance if President Trump is elected. They believe that he will join hands with Japan more firmly to confront the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Japan’s Main Concerns

Since the Japan-U.S. alliance is the centerpiece of Japan’s diplomacy, the Japanese government, media, and the public are all very concerned about the U.S. election.

There is now a popular saying in Japanese politics, diplomacy, and media called “Moshi Tora” (もしトラin Japanese) which means “if Trump is re-elected.” Moshi means “if,” and “Tora” is the abbreviation of “Toranpu,” the Japanese pronunciation of “Trump,” which is the same as “Tora,” the Japanese word for tiger. It is a metaphor describing Trump as a formidable tiger.

This simple and unique phrase, Moshi Tora, is now widely used in the media.

Japanese media have predicted that the U.S. Republican Party will surely elect President Trump as its presidential candidate in 2024 and that if President Joe Biden is the Democratic candidate, President Trump will surely win the election and become the U.S. president again.

At the same time, some Japanese people argue that Trump’s political philosophy is “America First,” which emphasizes protectionism and downplays alliances. If Trump is elected, it may have an impact on the Russian-Ukrainian war and the Israeli-Hamas conflict, set back global warming policies, and further distance the United States from China.

For Japan, although it has built new semiconductor factories in Kumamoto and Chitose, it may risk losing the Chinese market, because in light of the anticipated conflicts and antagonism between the United States and China, Japan will inevitably align with the United States.

In an interview with Fox News last July, when asked if the United States should help defend Taiwan in the event of a CCP invasion, President Trump said: “If I answer that question, it will put me in a very bad negotiating position. With that being said, Taiwan did take all of our chip business. We used to make our own chips. Now they’re made in Taiwan.”

This has since become a hot topic in Japanese media, and Tokyo is concerned about the impact that President Trump’s election would have on the situation in the Taiwan Strait.

Very recently, President Trump recounted a conversation with an unidentified leader of a NATO country who inquired about the protection the United States would offer in the event of an attack by Russia, especially if their commitment to fulfilling their pledge of 2 percent defense spending was not up to date. President Trump suggested that the United States would not provide protection if the NATO member had not met its financial obligations.

Japan is worried that this answer would apply to Japan as well.

Analysts: Japan Needn’t Worry Too Much

“Japan does not have to be so worried,” Tang Jingyuan, a China expert and veteran commentator told The Epoch Times. “It’s not that Trump undervalues the relationship with allies. On the contrary, the Indo-Pacific Strategy that President Biden is implementing now, in fact, is first developed by Trump. Biden basically inherited his strategy and made minor adjustments.”

According to Mr. Tang, the cornerstone of U.S.-Japanese relations is based on shared values and alignment in major national security interests, while differences such as trade friction are only a secondary factor.

“Although Trump emphasizes ‘America first,’ he is not a reckless person because he knows what is important. He will not take the U.S.-Japan alliance lightly, but will probably further strengthen the U.S.-Japan relations because his understanding of the CCP threat exceeds that of the Biden administration, and Trump is the first person among the U.S. elites to reverse the perception of the nature of the CCP,” Mr. Tang said.

He added that President Trump wants a mutually beneficial relationship between allies, not one that allows the allies to take advantage of the United States.

“As Trump did in his first term, he will prioritize the U.S.-Japan alliance, and trade issues can be resolved through negotiations,” he said.

China expert Wang He told The Epoch Times that Japan’s worries about the Taiwan Strait are based on assumptions, which, in fact, are unlikely to happen if President Trump is re-elected.

“If Trump is in power, the CCP won’t dare to casually take action against Taiwan, at least this is many times more difficult than when Biden is in power. In fact, Trump has already achieved this during his first term, and he’s already fighting a new cold war with the CCP while he’s in office,” Mr. Wang said.

Mr. Tang concurred. “When Trump was in charge, Chinese leader Xi Jinping did not dare to openly challenge the U.S.-led world order. When Biden first came to power, the CCP’s aggressive wolf warrior diplomacy was rampant worldwide, which demonstrates that Trump is better at adopting a strategy of political deterrence and taking precautionary measures. This is in stark contrast to Biden who tends to miss the first opportunity and make up for it only afterward.”

Mr. Wang stated that the CCP is America’s greatest enemy. As long as Trump has it on his mind to deal with the CCP, he must support Taiwan and Japan as the U.S. allies in Asia.

“Japan is the most important strategic partner of the United States in Asia,” he said. “Without Japan, America’s Indo-Pacific strategy is basically weakened by more than 50 percent. Therefore, the closer the strategic integration between the United States and Japan, the more successful the strategic cooperation.”

Mr. Wang further pointed out that Japan’s diplomacy is a soft approach, and its relations with ASEAN countries and the entire Asian Indo-Pacific countries are very good. Some countries are reluctant to take sides in the confrontation between the United States and China, but they willingly accept Japan. In that regard, Japan has played a great role in bringing these countries closer to the United States.

He believes that Japan’s success in diplomacy has made the CCP very jealous and upset.

“The CCP has tried every possible way to break up the U.S.-Japan alliance, to drive a wedge between the two. But it did not work,” he said.

Abe’s Contribution to Indo-Pacific Strategy

Akira Amari, former chief executive of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who served as Minister of Economic Regeneration in the second Abe administration, said in an interview program with Japan’s Fuji TV on Feb. 11 that because Trump would not be able to run for a further term as president, in other words, he would not have to worry about re-election, he therefore will implement policies as he sees fit with no constraints.

Mr. Amari revealed that the last time President Trump was elected, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put in a lot of effort and successfully persuaded President Trump to join hands with the G7.

In April 2016, President Trump strongly demanded that Japan significantly increase its commitment to the cost of the U.S. military in Japan, and also pointed out certain issues related Japan’s automobile exports to the United States, which made Japan very worried.

Mr. Abe felt that the situation was serious and wanted to meet with President Trump as soon as possible to elucidate the significance of the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Therefore, on Nov. 10, the day after President Trump was elected, Mr. Abe had a telephone conversation with him, and on Nov. 17, he flew to New York and held a meeting at Trump Tower, which led to a change in U.S. policy toward China and North Korea. After President Trump took office, the U.S.-Japan alliance was greatly strengthened.

Mr. Wang highly praised Mr. Abe as one of the rare Japanese politicians with a global strategic vision.

“He proposed the concept of the Arc of Peace in the Pacific Ocean, and he was the earliest proponent of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. Therefore, after Trump was elected president of the United States, he immediately went to meet with Trump to convince him to beware of the CCP. The Abe line has been inherited by the subsequent governments and the Japanese people. Therefore, there is no need to worry about the U.S.-Japan alliance if Trump is re-elected,” he said.