Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-4-2018


International Relations


Christi Siver, Political Science


Emerging from a violent past as unlikely partners, the alliance of the United States and Japan has withstood years of cooperation and competition. Today, the two nations face regional threats from North Korea and China. Considering the unique alliance, I hope to provide a framework for understanding inter-alliance management and policy making processes. Subsequently, I consider one main question in my research. What factors explain continuities and changes within this alliance relationship? To address this question, I consider leadership role conception, role prescription, and norms of consultation that contribute to changes within alliance relations.

Analyzing these variables in the case of the US-Japan alliance provides a clearer understanding of what contributes to policy change in bilateral alliances. Research on alliances often fails to address normative variables and attributes much of change to arguments posed in the realist camp that emphasize system pressures. Focusing on different aspects of decision-making expands the research on change in alliances and fills the gap of intra-alliance relations research. I analyze the alliance at two different time periods in the relationship. First, alliance relations and security policy during the Nixon and Sato leadership give a better understanding of the Okinawa Reversion and Nuclear Deterrent issue of 1972. Second, the 1991 Persian Gulf Crisis raised tensions due to unclear roles and a lack of norms of consultation. The roles that these nations play in the alliance illustrate how tensions are alleviated or heightened due to role variation and the strength of consultation norms. Role conceptions and perceptions along with formal or informal norms of consultation contribute to changes in alliance relations. The presence of norms of consultation and alignment of roles alleviates tension.