Japan From Superrich To Superpower

As its economic strength hardens into political muscle, Tokyo confronts the dilemma of how and when to use its might

The year is 1992. A local conflict has closed the Strait of Malacca, blocking Japanese tankers laden with Persian Gulf oil from entering the South China Sea. The Japanese Prime Minister places a call to the White House.

"Good evening, Mr. President," he says. "Would you consider sending the U.S. Navy to escort my ships through the strait?" Pause. The President is well aware that the request is coming from America's biggest creditor. "Why, yes, of course," he replies. The Prime Minister thanks him, adding, "I am certain that your help will reassure our private investors enough so that they will...

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