The Okinawa 'Effect' in US-Japan Alliance Politics

Asian Security

Author/s (editor/s):

H. D. P. Envall, Kerri Ng

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor and Francis

H. D. P. Envall and Kerri Ng, ‘The Okinawa ‘Effect’ in US-Japan Alliance Politics’, Asian Security, 11(3) 2015: 225-241.

Discontent over US military bases in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture has long been a prominent “thorn in the side” of US–Japan relations. But what exactly has been the effect of Okinawa’s base politics on the management of the alliance? We examine Okinawa’s significance on the US–Japan alliance—the “Okinawa effect”—in terms of the alliance’s strategic coherence. Through an examination of the post–Cold War history of the base issue, we argue that, while there little to suggest that the Okinawa issue has undermined the alliance’s strategic effectiveness, alliance efficiency in dealing with burden sharing problems has been diminished, at times substantially. While reduced efficiency may often be inevitable in alliances between democracies, this persistent inability to resolve burden sharing disputes in the Okinawan case means that there is still potential for deteriorating efficiency to eventually undermine the alliance’s solidarity and effectiveness.

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