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…

Cacophonous beginnings to a new Asian epoch

Students who turned 18 participate in an adult ceremony held to mark the Chinese Youth Day at a school in Qingdao city, Shandong province, eastern China, 4 May 2014.  (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jean-Pierre Lehmann, IMD

On 26 October 1909 a young Korean nationalist, Ahn Jung-Geun, assassinated Japanese statesman and four-time prime minister Itō Hirobumi on the platform of Harbin railway station. This triggered a number of developments in East Asia. Specifically, it gave Tokyo a pretext for the formal colonisation of Korea the following year and extended Japan’s imperialist reach over the continent. Although Japan had already made its impact as a rising global power — notably in forging an alliance with Great Britain in 1902 and defeating Russia in war in 1905 — beyond East Asia the incident was hardly noticed. Read more…

Obama mustn’t underestimate Modi

US Secretary of State John Kerry greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India, 1 August, 2014.

Author: Harshita Kohli, RSIS

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to India for the India–US Strategic Dialogue, in which he described India as an ‘indispensable partner for the 21st century’, is a clear effort by the American government to jumpstart the flagging bilateral partnership.

During his stay in India, Kerry met with senior politicians and leading Indian businessmen. US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel also visited New Delhi last week to further the US–India defence partnership. The increase in senior-level interactions between officials from both countries is designed to set the stage for the bilateral summit to be held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington in late September 2014. Read more…

Back to the drawing board on US–India relations?

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel inspects a Guard of Honor before a meeting with his Indian counterpart, Arun Jaitley, in New Delhi, India, 8 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

The US–India strategic partnership is either the most underperforming bilateral relationship in the world or its most overrated. As a new chapter in this relationship is opened with the formation of a new centre-right government in New Delhi and the back-to-back visits by John Kerry and Chuck Hagel in late July and early August, it is imperative that the path that is charted ahead is informed by the lessons of the past decade and a half. Read more…

Kerry, Hagel visits set agenda for Obama-Modi meeting

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meets with senior Indian army officers in New Delhi. (Photo: AAP).

Author: C Uday Bhaskar, Society for Policy Studies

The recent back-to-back visits to Delhi by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel mark the first high-level political contact between the Obama administration and the newly elected Modi government. Read more…

Sino-India border dispute best left dormant

In Ladakh, along the border between China and India, Chinese troops hold a banner that reads: You have crossed the border — please go back, 5 May 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Santosh Sharma Poudel and Stefanie Kam, RSIS

The border dispute between China and India has come to the fore once again despite an exponential increase in bilateral trade between the two countries. The border dispute highlights the growing strategic competition and lack of trust between them. But it is better left dormant while both governments focus on more immediate issues. 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…

BRICS lay a foundation but will there be concrete action?

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at Itamaraty Palace on 17 July 2014 in Brasilia. At a summit in Brazil the BRICS group of emerging economic powers created the New Development Bank to finance infrastructure projects. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Maria Theresa Anna Robles, RSIS

Unsurprisingly, the BRICS countries sixth annual summit in Brazil once again polarised public opinion. When the proposal for a BRICS development bank and currency swap arrangement was put forward in March 2012, the reaction was already divided. Some believed — including ‘rival’ international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — that there is room for such an institution to help meet developing countries’ massive investment needs. Others felt that, given the considerable economic and political differences, the feasibility of concerted action from the BRICS is limited. Read more…

Forging a common regional approach to China

Cadet members of the PLA take part in a military training at the Armoured Forces Engineering Academy Base near Beijing on 22 July, 2014. Chinese government authorised foreign media to view the military exercise. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hitoshi Tanaka, JCIE

Despite China’s rapid and unprecedented economic growth, the world has yet to come to grips with the challenges and opportunities that the country presents. The story of China’s rise is as much about how the rest of the world responds to China as it is about the nation that China is growing to become. 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…

Cementing the BRICS together

The heads of BRICS member states pose for a picture during the 6th BRICS summit in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil, 15 July 2014. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) member states discuss political coordination issues and global governance problems. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Garima Sahdev and Geethanjali Nataraj, Observer Research Foundation

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Brazil for his first major international summit, the sixth annual BRICS summit. Before his departure, the leader put forward his vision that the vitality of the BRICS group would cut across the geographical and ideological divides of not only the five countries of the group but also of the global economy. 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…