The USS Ronald Reagan, USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Nimitz Strike Groups transit in the Western Pacific with ships from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force on November 12, 2017. Photo: AFP/US Navy/Anthony Rivera

SEOUL – There can be few finer examples of the positive potential of change than the Japan-US relationship. In a generation, the Pacific powers morphed from mortal enemies into staunch allies.

Unlike Washington’s alliance with other close partners such as London and Seoul, its partnership with Tokyo remains untested in battle. But though the US never called on Japan to fight in Korea, Vietnam or the Middle East, two factors are making it more critical for US security than ever before.

First and foremost is the surging economic rise of China and its increasingly assertive global political stance under President Xi Jinping. Today’s China represents a dual economic and strategic challenge for America in a way that today’s militarily powerful but economically feeble Russia does not. 

Second, is the emergence of North Korea as a nuclear-armed state with ballistic missiles capable of hitting the continental US.

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