Why Japan’s collective self-defence is so politicised

Women hold banners during a rally opposing the plans of the Japanese government to change Article 9 of the constitution in Tokyo, 17 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: T J Pempel, Berkley

On 1 July, the Abe Cabinet issued a reinterpretation of Japan’s longstanding self-imposed ban on the right of collective self-defence. It was justified as a minimalist countermeasure to the increasingly severe security environment posed by a rising China and an unpredictable, nuclearised North Korea. But the reinterpretation fell well short of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s long-cherished goal of formally amending the constitution and eradicating what he and others criticise as the Japan’s over-reliance on US security guarantees as well as its collective naiveté ‘about the minimum necessary measures for our self-defence’. Read more…

Uncomfortable compromises in Russia­–Japan territory dispute

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

Author: Owen Lindsay, University of South Australia

On 12 August, Russia held military manoeuvres on two of the four disputed islands that lie north-east of Hokkaido. The island chain, known as the South Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, has been the major sticking point in Japan–Russia relations during the post-war period.

The Soviet Union, and then Russia, has exercised de facto administration over the entire island chain since 1945 — Russian citizens and soldiers currently live on all four of the disputed islands. Read more…

Can North Korea abduction issue progress improve Abe’s approval rating?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, 9 December 2013. The approval rating for the Abe cabinet has fallen 10 points to 47 per cent, according to a poll released 9 December by the Kyodo News agency. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Takao Toshikawa, Oriental Economist Report

Public backlash to the Abe government’s cabinet decision to recognise the right to collective self-defence, as well as the decision to restart nuclear power, has seen the cabinet’s approval rating to drop below 50 per cent. According to one Democratic Party of Japan Diet member, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) loss at the Shiga Prefecture gubernatorial election in early July ‘turns the November Okinawa gubernatorial election into a decisive battle. If the LDP candidate loses, the politics of “Abe always wins” will be at an end’. Read more…

Why the US struggles against Japan in TPP negotiations

US Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks to reporters while Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari looks on during a press conference at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, 20 May 2014. Trade ministers from 12 nations completed a two-day Ministerial meeting in Singapore targeted at creating a 12-nation trade pact in the Asian-Pacific region. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Real progress in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations has stalled until Japan and the United States reach some kind of basic trade agreement — which is still elusive even after numerous rounds of talks. The United States has been pressuring Japan to make concessions in key areas such as agriculture.

It is well known that current TPP negotiations are running on two separate tracks: the plurilateral track in which all 12 countries are participating and the bilateral track which amounts to a series of bilateral deals being negotiated on the side. Read more…

Supreme Court of Japan rules against welfare for foreigners

A young man sits alone on a sofa in Tokyo, 29 July 2014. Tough economic conditions have presented serious problems for both Japanese nationals and foreign residents in Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Trevor Ryan, University of Canberra

Last month, the Supreme Court of Japan ruled that persons without Japanese nationality (that is foreigners) have no legal claim to benefits under the Public Assistance Act. The case is an affront to the second and third generations of ethnic Chinese and Koreans in Japan who have chosen for practical and identity reasons not to renounce their nationality and naturalise as Japanese. For these and other tax-paying permanent residents, the case simply affirms the legality of a discriminatory statute.

But, while it is a ‘stunning’ decision for some, a few points about the decision should be clarified. Read more…

Collective self-defence: What Japan’s new defence policy means for international cooperation on cyber security

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Maj. Nishikawa Hajime analyses data transmissions on a computer at the Camp Naha gymnasium, Okinawa, 23 July 2014. (Photo: US Marin Corps/ Lance Cpl. Pete Sanders).

Author: Mihoko Matsubara, Pacific Forum CSIS

In July 2014, the Shinzo Abe cabinet took an epoch-making decision to change its interpretation of the Japanese constitution to recognise the right to collective self-defence. The Japanese government’s traditional interpretation of the constitution prohibited Japan from exercising the right to help the US, or Japan’s defence partners, in the case of an armed attack, even though Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations authorises this. Read more…

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…