East Asia’s geostrategic equation and Japan’s collective self-defence

Protesters hold placards and shout anti-government slogans during a rally against the reinterpretation of Japan’s constitution in Tokyo on 14 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: John Blaxland, ANU and Rikki Kersten, Murdoch University

Given that Japan is a mature democracy and has been a positive force for global peace and stability for the past 70 years, why is it so controversial that the country wants to possess more ‘normal’ military capabilities? Read more…

Abe and constitutional revision: round two

Japanese Prime Minsiter Shinzo Abe answers questions during a budget committee session of the lower house in Tokyo on 12 Feb. 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rikki Kersten, ANU

Following the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) victory in the December elections in Japan, new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his desire to revise Japan’s 1947 Constitution.

While Japan watchers will immediately assume that this means the potential eradication of the so-called ‘pacifist clause’, it is better understood as Abe’s attempt to reposition pacifism in Japan’s postwar national identity. Read more…

Escalating territorial tension in East Asia echoes Europe’s descent into world war

Chinese navy and civilian maritime personnel mark the start of exercises in Zhoushan in east China's Zhejiang province, 19 Oct. 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: John Blaxland and Rikki Kersten, ANU

The recent activation of Chinese weapons radars aimed at Japanese military platforms around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is the latest in a series of incidents in which China has asserted its power and authority at the expense of its neighbours.

The radars cue supersonic missile systems and give those on the receiving end only a split second to respond. Read more…

Japan’s territorial disputes: will they lead to constitutional change?

Law makers in the Upper House of the Japanese Parliament. Renewed controversy over territorial disputes may lead to amendment of the pacifist Japanese constitution. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rikki Kersten, ANU

In recent weeks, Japan has faced escalating tensions over its territorial disputes with China, Russia and the ROK respectively.

Pressure is building in Japan and elsewhere to reconcile defence and foreign policy with domestic nationalist agendas. Read more…

Tectonic plates may shift again after DPJ leadership poll

Ichiro Ozawa bows to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. (Photo: Getty Images)

Author: Rikki Kersten, ANU

On September 14 the DPJ emerged from its leadership contest between Naoto Kan and Ichiro Ozawa a divided party. This means that Japan’s voters will not see resolution of or even progress on crucial policy problems, including resolving the Futenma base relocation issue, rejuvenating the US-Japan relationship, managing the China relationship and the North Korea wildcard, balancing economic stimulus with fiscal austerity, and discussing the tax reform that Japan has to have. If Ozawa escapes indictment for a funding scandal next month, we can expect the next disruptive phase of Japan’s political realignment to begin.

While Kan won 721 to Ozawa’s 491 voting points, this was due to a pro-Kan surge amongst the party rank and file across the nation. The parliamentary party was split right down the middle, with Kan garnering support from 209 party members and Ozawa winning votes from 200 members. Read more…

What’s new in Japanese foreign policy under Kan?

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan attends a working session at the G8 Summit at the Deerhurst Resort on Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Photo: Francis Vachon)

Author: Rikki Kersten, ANU

At first glance, the advent of Naoto Kan to the Prime Ministership in Japan seems to promise a change in process and style rather than a fundamental shift in Japan’s foreign policy.

Kan’s shifts in process will be many, and likely effective. Kan will run a tighter ship by coordinating policy development within government, and muzzling rogue media statements by colleagues who do not have carriage of relevant policy. In the run-up to the mid-term elections, he will have the luxury of not having to stick to the immovable policy positions of coalition partners such as the Socialist Party. Read more…