US to Japan, South Korea: stop arguing and get on with it

Shinto priests walk out from the outer shrine after they administer a Shinto rite Kiyoharai on the first day of the three-day spring festival at the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo on 21 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Andrew Horvat, Tokyo

On 6 March, the Obama administration sent a strong message to Japan and South Korea to work out their differences over history. Speaking on Japanese television, US Ambassador to Tokyo Caroline Kennedy said, ‘I’m sure President Obama will be very, very happy with the progress they will make’.

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Challenges for the US-Japan alliance in a changing Asia

A unit of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force honor guards hold US and Japan national flags. US President Barack Obama will visit Tokyo this week and the current security situation in East Asia underscores the importance of maintaining and strengthening US-Japan alliance cooperation. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hitoshi Tanaka, JCIE

Tokyo will welcome US President Barack Obama this week at a key moment in US-Japan relations. The challenging nature of the current security situation in East Asia underscores the importance of maintaining and strengthening US-Japan alliance cooperation. The risk of North Korean military provocation remains ever-present, and China is becoming increasingly assertive in its maritime activities in the East and South China Seas. Read more…

Japan and Australia ‘beef up’ relations

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the National Security Council in Tokyo on 7 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The Economic Partnership Agreement that Japan recently concluded with Australia (JAEPA) has everything to do with Japanese trade strategy and little if anything to do with agricultural reform.

Some of the commentary on the agreement has argued that JAEPA was the product of Abe’s reform agenda, but it is neither part of that agenda nor will it advance it. Read more…

Is Abe bypassing democracy to push his defence agenda?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reviews members of Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) during the Self-Defense Forces Day at Asaka Base, north of Tokyo. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Takanori Sonoda, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation

Is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new interpretation of Japan’s Constitution constitutional? Seeking to move his national agenda to revise the regime created after World War II, Abe has repeatedly argued for a new interpretation of Article 9 to allow ‘collective self-defence’ actions by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. He has said that, as the head of the government, he would take ultimate responsibility for a potential reinterpretation by facing general elections. Read more…

Why no investor–state arbitration in the Australia–Japan FTA?

Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yoshimasa Hayashi and Australian Minister for Trade Andrew Robb lead bilateral negotiations in Tokyo on April 5, 2014. An FTA was concluded on 7 April, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Luke Nottage, University of Sydney

Australia and Japan finally concluded a bilateral free trade agreement on 7 April 2014.

Some Australian media outlets had prior inklings that negotiations had achieved significant breakthroughs, especially for agricultural market access into Japan, but a frequent assumption was that Australia must have ‘given up’ something major in return. Read more…

Can Abe deliver Japan from stagnation?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo. Some of his closest advisors are worried that without grasping the structural reform nettle, the lift in productivity that is needed to succeed in re-booting the Japanese economy will not come any time soon. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s bold ‘three arrows’ strategy to lift Japan out of two decades of economic stagnation got off to a good start with the swift implementation of expansionary monetary policy and public spending. Abe’s strong parliamentary position, especially after the July 2013 upper house elections, also buoyed confidence that he could deliver the crucial third arrow — structural reform. Business and consumer confidence were given a long awaited boost. Read more…

Strategic zones and labour reform to get Abenomics back on track?

Mt Fuji is seen between Shinjuku skyscrapers in Tokyo, Japan. The new Abe policy Strategic Special Zones focuses on the development of Tokyo and other major metropolitan cities through regulatory reform and fiscal incentive measures (Photo: AAP).

Author: Naohiro Yashiro, International Christian University

Since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came back to power at the end of 2012, the first two arrows (expansionary monetary and fiscal policy) of his ‘Abenomics’ economic policy package have been relatively successful in re-igniting Japan’s economy and raising expectations for economic growth. But momentum seems to be falling away as the third and decisive arrow — structural reform — has yet to be released. Read more…

Can Abe’s third arrow pierce Japan’s agricultural armour?

Japanese farmers picking tea leaves under the summit of Mount Fuji in Shizuoka province, Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The third arrow of Abenomics (economic growth through structural reform) is flying neither high nor fast in Japan’s agricultural sector. The Abe administration’s agricultural reform program falls far short of what is needed for structural reform of the farm industry. This has implications for agricultural trade policy and for the kind of concessions that Japan will be prepared to make in international trade negotiations, both bilateral and plurilateral, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Read more…

Is Vietnam’s bamboo diplomacy threatened by pandas?

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang as they attend the cooperation signing ceremony between Russia and Vietnam at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam in November 2013 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thuy T. Do, ANU

Vietnam is maximising its political leverage with ‘clumping bamboo’ diplomacy. Although Thailand is famous for its skilful ‘bamboo diplomacy’ — always solidly rooted but flexible enough to bend whichever way the wind blows to survive — the Vietnamese have found another diplomatic philosophy to engage great powers. Read more…

Beijing’s South China Sea strategies: consolidation and provocation

A Chinese marine surveillance ship alongside a Japan Coast Guard ship near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Gregory Poling, CSIS

Recent months have seen a steady progression of China’s long-term strategy in the South China Sea, which can be loosely divided into two parts. Beijing is building up its maritime surveillance forces in the area and strengthening effective control of the features it occupies. At the same time, Chinese vessels are venturing far afield with greater frequency to assert Beijing’s claims to the entire area encompassed by the ‘nine-dash line’, and to provoke missteps by fellow claimants. Read more…

The Ukrainian crisis and Japan’s dilemma

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at their meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, 8 February 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Dmitry Filippov, University of Sheffield

The timing of the Ukrainian crisis could not have been worse for Japan, as it presented Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with the tactical dilemma of whether or not to fall in line with the international community by imposing sanctions against Russia.

So far, Japan’s reaction has been lukewarm compared to the response of the United States and the European Union. Read more…

Is China preparing for a ‘short, sharp war’ against Japan?

A PLA soldier of a frontier defence corps jumps through an obstacle on fire during a military exercise in northeast China on 5 March 2014. Territorial claims have stirred tensions with Japan; although such exercises trigger anxiety in China’s maritime neighbours, Chinese planners conceptualise them as part of conventional deterrence. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Jonathan D. Pollack, Brookings Institution, and Dennis J. Blasko, independent China military analyst

Heightened tensions between China and Japan in recent months have triggered widespread debate over Beijing’s ultimate intentions. There are even predictions of direct armed conflict in the East China Sea. Is an acute crisis likely? What potential actions might China take to protect its interests? Read more…

Japan’s new security strategy: changing national identity?

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JDS Kongou (DDG 173) sails in formation with other JMSDF ships and ships assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group in the Pacific Ocean (Photo: US Navy / Todd Cichonowicz).

Author: Takeshi Yuzawa, Hosei University

In December 2013, the Japanese government issued the nation’s first National Security Strategy (NSS). The NSS is the result of government efforts to formulate a comprehensive and integrated approach to national security. It is based on an emerging principle of ‘a proactive contributor to peace’, which represents Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s desire to move Japan towards collective self-defence. Read more…

Why 2014 in Asia will not be a repeat of 1914 in Europe

A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force surveillance plane flies over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Commentators suggest that the dispute between Japan and China will escalate into events similar to those in Europe that led to World War I. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Paul Dibb, ANU

The Jeremiah prophets are coming out of the woodwork to predict that there will be an outbreak of war between the major powers in Asia, just like in Europe 100 years ago. The idea is that a rising China will inevitably go to war with the United States, either directly or through conflict with Japan. Read more…

Japan’s constitutional dilemma

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers train with US Marines during Exercise Iron Fist to promote military interoperability on 8 February 2014. The Shinzo Abe government hopes to reinterpret the security clause of the constitution so that Japan can exercise collective self-defence and help the US in emergency security situations. (Photo: US Marine Corps/ Lance Cpl. Anna K. Albrecht).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Japan’s ‘defenceless on all sides’ security strategy has served it well through the post-war period, underwritten as it has been by America’s security guarantee and continuing presence on Japanese soil. Despite the steady accretion of its military capabilities, the ‘peace’ constitution allayed anxieties within Japan’s neighbours, China, South Korea and the newly independent Southeast Asian nations, about Japanese military intentions. Read more…