Americans see Japan as their most important partner in Asia, according to a survey conducted by the US Foreign Ministry. China had been at the top for three consecutive years until Japan took the spot with 50% in the latest poll. China got 39% of the vote.

US polling service Gallup Inc., commissioned by the ministry, surveyed 1,200 members of the general public and 200 influential people in government, academia and other areas in the United States, and they chose Japan China and Russia as the top-three.

With President Obama’s “pivot to the Pacific” strategy, Japan is seen as a potential ally for cooperation on security issues in the region rather than China, which is more likely to back North Korea. US-China relations are strained by US vote to sell brand new fighter jets to Taiwan, which China condemns as an “interference to internal affairs” and an annual Pentagon report on Chinese cyber espionage directed at US and military exchanges with the Philippines, the other claimant of the disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Japan is working closely with the US on a number of issues, including engaging defense forces, cooperation on Afghanistan and Iranian oil sanctions. Close engagements with Japan may have won the sentiment of many Americans.