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…

The Abe and Abbott show: a meeting of minds and interests

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a joint press conference with his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott at Parliament House in Canberra, 8 July 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Jim Rolfe, Victoria University of Wellington

The ANZUS Treaty was signed 63 years ago by Australia, New Zealand and the United States, in part as a counter to the US security treaty with Japan and the final peace agreement following the end of World War II. ANZUS then was intended to stand against any possible resurgence of Japanese military power in the Asia Pacific region. Read more…

Shinzo Abe’s Australia visit and stability in Asia 

Australian Defence Minister David Johnston and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop meet Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on 11 June 2014. Abe will soon embark on an historic visit to Australia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will address both houses of the Australian parliament tomorrow in an historic visit, the first bilateral visit in 12 years by a Japanese leader. This is an occasion that will provide an excruciating test not only of the measure of Abe but also of measured-ness in Japanese and Australian thinking about their joint and collective responsibilities towards stability in the Asian region.

Read more…

Evolution, not revolution, for Japan’s military posture

Japan Self Defense Forces troops in a UH-1 helicopter during the new year military exercises in Narashino, Chiba prefecture, on 12 January 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Corey Wallace, University of Auckland

On 1 July the Abe Cabinet announced that the Japanese government would change the conditions for the mobilisation of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) for the first time since their establishment in 1954. This change is likely to result in the SDF being able to use force in situations that in theory could constitute the exercise of the right to ‘collective self-defence’ under international law. Read more…

The new Australia-Japan relationship

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on 7 April 2014. They share a strong personal relationship, which helped conclude the long-awaited Economic Partnership Agreement. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Australia this week comes at a key time for the Australia–Japan relationship. The bilateral relationship is as strong as it has ever been and is seen as one lynchpin in regional stability and prosperity.

Japan is Australia’s second most important economic partner, with trade and investment of close to US$80 billion annually — Australia is Japan’s fourth largest trading partner. Read more…

The political and diplomatic hard-yards still to be done on collective self-defence

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe attends a press conference to explain the right to collective self-defence in Tokyo on 1 July 2014. His cabinet members authorised a reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ryo Sahashi, Stanford University

On 1 July, the Japanese cabinet, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made an historic change to post-war security policy, expanding the scope for interpretation of the Constitution’s Article 9. Japan may now hold the right to collective self-defence — the use of military force to defend a foreign country that is in a close relationship with Japan when it comes under armed attack. Read more…

Why whaling will remain a thorny issue for Australia–Japan relations

A Japanese whaling fleet leaves from Ayukawa port in Ishinomaki City, northern Japan, 26 April 2014. Japan killed 30 minke whales off its northeast coast, in its first hunt since the International Court of Justice ordered Tokyo to stop killing the whales in the Antarctic. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Donald R. Rothwell, ANU

Shinzo Abe’s July visit to Australia will be the first for a Japanese prime minister since 2007. It comes at a good time for bilateral relations following Tony Abbott’s ‘closest friend in Asia’ praise for Japan in October 2013, and the success of Abbott’s April 2014 visit to Tokyo. Yet the vexed issue of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean continues to dog the relationship, even after the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 31 March 2014. Read more…

The future of US–Japan military exercises

US Navy FA-18 Hornets cram the flight deck of the USS George Washington during a joint military exercise with Japan in the Pacific Ocean, 28 November 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tiago Mauricio, Pacific Forum CSIS

Military exercises play an important role in strengthening America’s extended deterrence in Northeast Asia. Given the transformations in the regional strategic environment, and budgetary constraints for the US and some of its allies, multinational military exercises are particularly alluring for their ability to bolster deterrence on the cheap. Read more…

Learning from Japan’s financial crisis

Pedestrians are reflected on a share prices board in Tokyo, 30 Januaury 2014. Shadow banking in Japan during the financial crisis can provide lessons to other Asian economies. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Eiji Okuyama, Chuo University

Since the onset of the global financial crisis which originated in the subprime meltdown in the United States, ‘shadow banking’ has attracted considerable attention. Shadow banking, unlike traditional banking, is not subject to strict regulations. It is believed that financial transactions carried out via shadow banking were one of the main causes of the crisis. Now there are concerns about shadow banking in China. Read more…