Just in case there’s any misunderstanding, I do not believe that the US response to China’s new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) will directly impact the Japan-US bilateral part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Once the Abe administration committed to the TTP process, there was no way that it could entrench itself in a position that would wind up putting the blame on Japan in the event that negotiations ultimately failed. The Abe administration will make the necessary domestic adjustments—essentially using fiscal means to buy off vested agricultural interests—regardless of what goes on in the East China Sea.
However, there has been much to worry about the Obama administration’s Asia Pivot from the Japanese perspective as John Kerry has supplanted Hilary Clinton in the State Department and focused most of his attention on the Middle East. It is conceivable, plausible, that China looked at what it considers a distracted Obama administration and timed its move accordingly. In a sense, the US commitment to the Japan-US security relationship is being tested. A muscular US response on this front should serve as confirmation of this commitment, in turn replenishing confidence in the Obama administration’s commitment to the Asian Pivot. Japanese concessions at the negotiating table are unlikely to be materially affected by this, but they will easier to sell within the domestic political process because of it.