Culture and Cooperation: U.S.-Japan Bilateral Relations

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Written by Samantha Thorne

Washington, DC—At a recent Meridian International diplomacy forum, diplomats and experts in artificial intelligence, business, sports diplomacy, and defense sectors highlighted the significance of longstanding U.S.-Japan bilateral relations. By providing a multifaceted view of both countries through cultural, economical, technological, and security lenses, the speakers professed that Japanese-American relations have directly contributed to both countries’ national prosperity and international status.

Kevin Tsujihara and Dan Amos, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Aflac’s respective chairmen and CEOs, emphasized Japan’s provision of opportune markets and pro-business environments for U.S. companies. Recognizing the growth of an economic symbiotic relationship over the years, both businessmen explicated the positive-sum nature of American-Japanese business interactions.

The discussion was accompanied by a persisting thread of culture: Japan and the United States share such prolific economic relations, the speakers explained, because of a respect for each other’s culture. By adapting products and marketing to mirror cultural differences between the countries, companies have profited.

“As we look across the globe, [Warner Bros.] thinks [Japan] is one of the most pro-business countries that exists,” Tsujihara said. “There’s a huge market opportunity because there’s an appreciation both ways for our cultures.”

Their words reveal that pro-business and free market sentiments have become integrated into American and Japanese cultures. Rather than being mutually exclusive, a business-focused and economically impactful culture fosters synergistic growth.

Embracing Mr. Roboto

Doctors Kerstin Sophie Haring and Takanori Shibata expounded upon the cultural nuances related to robotics in the United States and Japan. Specifically, citizens of the two nations perceive and interact with robots differently: Americans tend to view robots based on functionality while the Japanese esteem them based on design and aesthetic. However, the panelists noticed these cultural distinctions dissolve in recent years, with that change being exemplified in the therapeutic robotic seal PARO.

Shibata’s invention unites robotic purpose with beauty by reducing stress, stimulating interaction and relaxation, and improving socialization in Dementia patients—all under the auspicious cover of an eighth generation design. PARO reveals that by unifying technological and cultural priorities, artificial intelligence is more apt to solve problems facing both current and future generations, such as Japan’s demographic dilemma of an aging population and an accompanying need for care work.

U.S.-Japan Security and Defense Partnership

Former U.S. Navy officer Admiral Gary Roughead, Raytheon Air and Missile Defense Systems Senior Manager Ken Spurlock, and Political Security Officer of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Japanese Affairs Mark Wuebbels discussed the bilateral cooperation found in the U.S.-Japan security alliance and the countries’ defense industries.

“In my view, the alliance with Japan is unique,” Admiral Roughead commented. “There’s no other relationship that we have militarily that operates at such a high level of sophistication and we’ve been doing this for quite some time with Japan.”

The panelists highlighted Japanese growth in military security and attributed this to a quickening pace of U.S.-Japanese engagement over the past two years and Japan’s advancement of its defense industry and military capabilities. Such capability expansions can be linked to co-developed weapon systems.

Spurlock emphasized the efficacy of Raytheon and Mitsubishi’s joint cooperation. The American and Japanese companies’ codevelopment of weapon systems, specifically the SM-3 Block IIA ballistic missile, exemplifies the effectiveness of U.S.-Japanese cooperation: Raytheon and Mitsubishi’s combined efforts and collaboration developed a missile with three to four times the range of its solely American-produced counterpart.

An emphasis on culture and cooperation in American-Japanese bilateral relations has contributed to both countries’ affluence, technological advancement, and national security. Though nations tend to prioritize their economies and defense and technology industries most, an appreciation for cultural interactions and partnerships fortify those national priorities to show that soft diplomacy is impactful. By recognizing the uniqueness of not only each country’s culture, but also the uniqueness of their bilateral relationship, the United States and Japan have prospered.