While American criticisms of Japan have a similar flavor to those of the last two decades -- still accusing Japan of having an ingrown system that is resistant to reform and impervious to its effects on the rest of the world -- the concern now is not Japanese dominance but Japanese drift.
The chief immediate cause of Japanese-American tension is the East Asian economic crisis that began in the summer of 1997. In the words of one observer, "from Washington's perspective, the relationship has frayed because Tokyo has failed to keep up its end of an unspoken understanding. The United States guarantees regional security and maintains an open market for exports from the entire region -- Japan included. In turn, Japan should be the locomotive for Asian growth" (Melby, 1998). In the 1970s and 1980s, the pervasive American fear was that the Japanese locomotive would roll over the US economy; now the American concern is that the locomotive is stalled, and liable to be pulled backward.
Other factors influence the relationship, such as Japanese uncertainty regarding US policy toward China (Melby, 1998), or the continuing question of how to deal with North Korea. However, the Japanese-American relationship has for several decades been driven and shaped primarily by economic factors, and the turnabout in the relationship during the Clinton era has been due lar