Abe finding it hard to get his way on defence

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews members of Japan Self-Defense Forces. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yoshisuke Iinuma, Oriental Economist Report

On 1 July, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a decision to broaden the interpretation of the Japanese Constitution to enable Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defence. But to what extent will the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) actually be able to expand their range of collective action? Read more…

Japan must work hard to solve labour crisis

Workers give the final checkup on the cars of Honda Accord Tourer at Saitama Factory.

Author: Hiroaki Miyamoto, University of Tokyo

Labour shortages are becoming a serious problem in Japan. According to the labour ministry, the ratio of job offers to job seekers for all professions was 1.10 in June 2014 — hitting a 22-year high. Given the current situation, there are growing concerns that mounting labour shortages could hamper Japan’s economic recovery. Read more…

Australia, Japan make history by moving on from it

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Prime Minister Tony Abbott smile after signing the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement and Agreement on the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology, 8 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Christopher Pokarier, Waseda University

For 60 years Australian governments in their dealings with Japan have chosen to make history rather than be bound by it. This was never politically easy and many Australians continue to be disappointed by reports of influential Japanese who appear to sanitise Japan’s wartime record. Australian soldiers and civilians who fell prisoner to Japanese forces suffered brutal treatment, as did other allied forces and many peoples of East Asia. Read more…

Australia, Japan take a ‘domino approach’ to regional integration

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe speaks with Australian prime minister Tony Abbott ahead of a signing of a trade agreement between the two nations at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, 8 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Takashi Terada, Doshisha University

The recently signed Australia–Japan economic partnership agreement (EPA) is an example of the dynamic domino effect of regional trade and investment. This is where the benefits an FTA brings to one country, such as eliminating tariffs, generally disadvantages a third country not included in the agreement. This third party is thereby pressured to engage in seeking FTAs of their own. Australia’s regional integration strategy has adjusted itself well to this environment — in which big economies, each with different rules and ambitions, struggle with each other for trade advantages. Read more…

Abe’s aid reform, in the name of peace?

Myanmar President Thein Sein, left, greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, at Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Fumitaka Furuoka, University of Malaya

On 26 June 2014, a panel of specialists under Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida submitted a report that recommended transforming Japan’s foreign aid policy into a ‘strategic’ diplomatic tool. Based on the panel’s recommendations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun the process of revising the fundamental guidelines of Japan’s official development assistance (ODA). This process is to be completed before the end of this year. Read more…

Japan’s search for a new regional vision

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech in Tokyo on 20 July 2014. Clearly articulating his economic agenda was a decisive factor in the electoral success of Abe and appears to be a critical element in his continuing popularity. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

To many inside and outside Japan, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe brings both hope and a breath of fresh air to an economy and society that has been in relative retreat in recent times. Abenomics, with its enthusiastic adoption of unconventional monetary policy under the skilful leadership of Haruhiko Kuroda at the Bank of Japan, its commitment to continuing fiscal stimulus and its promise, as yet not fulsomely delivered, of deep structural reform — is just the mix of tonics that the Japanese economy needs. Read more…

China’s response to Japan’s constitutional reinterpretation

Chinese president Xi Jinping delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Chinese response to Japan reinterpreting its constitution has been predictably negative. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Amy King, ANU

On 1 July 2014, Japan’s Abe government announced a major change to the country’s post-war security policy by effectively lifting the ban on collective self-defence. The Abe government introduced new legislation that reinterpreted Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, thereby permitting Japan to use military force to come to the aid of an ally or a country in a close relationship with Japan when it is under armed attack. Read more…

Abe strikes a delicate balance in Australia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listens to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott during a meeting with members of Abbott's cabinet on national security at Parliament House in Canberra, 8 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thomas U. Berger, Boston University

Today, Japan finds itself in a remarkably difficult diplomatic and domestic political situation. While Japan continues to be secure from any existing external threat, the rise of a nuclear North Korea and an increasingly powerful and assertive China are creating major challenges for Japanese security policy. Read more…

Murky waters surround the rule of law in the South China Sea

A Chinese coast guard vessel fires water cannon at a Vietnamese vessel off the coast of Vietnam. The rule of law in the contested semi-enclosed seas of Asia needs to be constructed on a foundation that is objective, fair and equitable. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

The air is thick with calls for the rule of law to be observed in the East and South China Seas. ‘Japan for the rule of law, Asia for the rule of law, and the rule of law for all of us’, Shinzo Abe said at the Shangri-La Dialogue earlier this year. Nations, he observed — and by which he meant China — must make claims that are faithful in light of international law and resolve them peacefully. Read more…

China’s growing assertiveness transforms Japan’s security policy

People demonstrate against the defence policy change by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo in Tokyo, Japan, 5 July 2014. The Japanese cabinet decided on 1 July that Japan should be allowed to use military force abroad in special circumstances. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jennifer Lind, Dartmouth College

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on 1 July a decision to reinterpret the Japanese constitution, allowing Tokyo to militarily support partners that are under attack. Former prime minister Zenko Suzuki would approve. In 1981, Suzuki became the first Japanese leader to use the word ‘alliance’ to describe Japan’s relationship with the United States. The seemingly innocuous word sounded alarmingly militaristic to many Japanese who, since their country’s defeat in World War II, have been skittish of rearmament and involvement in overseas military operations. Read more…

Japan and the art of un-apologising

A regular rally of former so-called comfort women call for an apology from Japan in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, 22 January 2014. Japan forcibly took tens of thousands of Asian women, mostly Koreans, to battlefields to provide sexual services for the Japanese army during World War II. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, ANU

The Japanese government has long had difficulties coming up with effective apologies for the wartime misdeeds of the country’s military. For decades, while many ordinary Japanese grassroots groups worked tirelessly to right the wrongs of the past, the silence from the corridors of power in Tokyo was deafening. Read more…

Japan needs to rethink its Asian ‘diplomacy’

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe follows a Shinto priest to pay his respects at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, 26 December 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Jean-Pierre Lehmann, IMD

There were many reasons behind Meiji Japan’s (1868–1912) astonishing rise from a feudal backwater to the only non-Western industrial and imperial power within the space of a few short decades. One indisputable reason was the quality of Japanese diplomacy.

After a relatively short period of heated debate as Western gunships threatened, Japan decided to abandon its two-century-old ‘closed country’ policy of isolation and to learn from and join the West. Read more…

Russo–Japanese relations, bleak as ever

The turret of an old tank set in the ground as a part of war fortifications on Kunashiri Island, one of the disputed Northern Territories/ Kuril Islands. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Dmitry Filippov, University of Sheffield

The large-scale natural-gas deal struck on 21 May between Russia and China does not bode well for Japan’s relationship with Russia. With the Japanese government ratcheting up anti-Russian sanctions and temporarily suspending talks over the Northern Territories/Kuril Islands, the prospects of Japan hastening the resolution of the territorial dispute, and improving ties with Russia as a counterbalance to China remain as frail as ever. Read more…

Why Abe is out of touch on the comfort women controversies

Felicidad Delos Reyes, 85, a former Filipino comfort woman, one of many women forced to serve for the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, joins a protest outside the Japanese embassy in Pasay city, the Philippines, 25 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mikyoung Kim, Hiroshima Peace Institute

Ever since Shinzo Abe’s second stint as prime minister began in December 2012, his administration has been forging a worrisome trajectory for Japan’s foreign policy. Abe was re-elected because the Japanese people considered him a strong leader who would revive Japan’s ageing society and energise its declining economy. And Abe has initiated a series of bold policies regarding the economy, national defence and foreign affairs. But his motives and strategies raise concerns about maintaining peace and stability in East Asia. Read more…