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…

Vietnam’s precarious strategic balancing act

Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung attend a meeting in Hanoi over the stationing of a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea, 18 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Huong Le Thu, ISEAS

Since overcoming years of isolation in the late 1990s, Vietnam has pursued an ‘omnidirectional’ foreign policy. In 2001, Vietnam began establishing a network of flexibly defined partnerships: these include ‘comprehensive’ (enhanced bilateral diplomatic and economic relations), ‘strategic’ and ‘cooperative strategic’ (the highest level of cooperation based on long-term relations). Read more…

The Cambodian fallout from Thailand’s coup

A Cambodian migrant worker who recently crossed the border carries his belongings through the crowd after arriving in the city of Poipet on the Thai-Cambodian border on 18 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Leng Thearith, UNSW Canberra

Last month saw the 19th coup d’état in Thailand since 1932 but, unlike previous regime changes, this coup has significant regional implications — especially for Thailand’s neighbour, Cambodia. These are both economic and political. Read more…

We must improve trade connectivity in South Asia

Indian passengers travel on a train in Amritsar on 20 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Bipul Chatterjee and Joseph George, CUTS International

South Asian countries trade with each other far less than they could. The high cost of doing trade in the region, among the highest in the world, is the prime deterrent of trade among South Asian countries. An urgent upgrade of transport connectivity is needed in order to revitalise regional trade and decrease costs.

But there is more to trade connectivity than usually thought, and, in South Asia, improvement in transport connectivity alone may not be enough to spur a rise in trade volume. Read more…

Can Japan exercise collective self-defence effectively?

Members of airborne troops participate in the annual military parade of the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) at the Asaka training ground in Tokyo, Japan on 27 October 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Narushige Michishita, GRIPS

On 15 May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s hand-picked Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security submitted its final report. The report recommended that Japan play a more active international security role by exercising the right of collective self-defence as well as participating in collective security activities authorised by the UN. Read more…

Why Abe is pushing for the right to collective self-defence

Women hold antiwar banners during a rally opposing the government's move to change article 9 of the constitution in Tokyo, Japan, 17 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Toshiya Takahashi, ANU

Japanese domestic politics is sharply divided over the right to collective self-defence. The ban on collective self-defence has been a defining characteristic of Japan’s postwar national security. The government’s view on this ban was established in 1981 though it has in effect been used from the 1960s to justify the US–Japan Security Treaty under the pacifist constitution. Now the Abe government is seeking to lift the ban Read more…

China is a big winner from Thailand’s coup

Thai people are allowed to pose with riot and special forces soldiers at a 'Bring Back Happiness to Thai People' event in the central Lumpini Park once occupied by protesters, in Bangkok, Thailand, 15 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Patrick Jory, University of Queensland

While the recent military coup in Thailand has drawn much of the world’s attention to the military junta’s suppression of democracy and human rights, it also has far-reaching geopolitical implications for the whole of Southeast Asia.

Read more…

Japan’s Article 9: will it be revised or get the Nobel Peace Prize?

Protesters hold placards during a protest against plans by the Japanese government to lift a ban on collective self-defence by reinterpreting the constitution in Tokyo, Japan, 15 May 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Linus Hagström, Swedish Institute of International Affairs

In April news broke that the Norwegian Nobel Committee had accepted the nomination of the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan’s constitution as a candidate for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The so-called peace clause forbids Japan from using force to settle international disputes; force may only be used within the ‘minimum necessary level’ for individual self-defence.

Read more…

Japan a ‘clear winner’ at the Shangri-La Dialogue

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Shangri-La dialogue, 31 May 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Brendan Taylor, ANU

China ran rings around everyone at last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue. Their delegation was a model of coordination, right down to the Q&A sessions where questions from Chinese delegates were evidently scripted. Many commentators expected a repeat performance in 2014, particularly given the involvement of the smooth talking and highly impressive Madam Fu Ying as a member of the Chinese delegation. Read more…

Japan steals the show at the Shangri-La Dialogue

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gives the keynote address on the first day of The International Institute for Strategic Studies 13th Asia Security Summit in Singapore, 30 May 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Robert Ayson, Victoria University of Wellington

The Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore is an annual opportunity to test the temperature of regional security relations in Asia. This year relations were noticeably warmer — though not in a promising way — especially once Japan began presenting itself as a regional security provider. Read more…

Wildcards may trump India–China relations

A masked man is seen during a battle in Kashmir where two militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba outfit, responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, were killed, 13 April 2014. Kashmir and India’s strained relationship with Pakistan is one of a number of wildcards in Sino-India relations. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sandy Gordon, ANU

Commentators have generally assumed that the Obama administration’s wrong-footedness over Modi’s US visa, along with the latter’s pragmatic approach to Chinese investment in Gujarat, has prompted a new tilt by the BJP away from the United States and toward China. Read more…

Premier Li calls for ‘innovative and pragmatic cooperation’ in Africa

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta shake hands at State House Nairobi, Kenya, Saturday, 10 May 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Lauren Johnston, Sinograduate

On his inaugural trip to Africa as China’s Premier in May 2014, Li Keqiang laid down the principles for the future of China–Africa relations. Li’s itinerary included Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya. While reports of mega-deals dominated the headlines — a US$10 billion increase in Chinese credit lines for Africa, a US$2 billion infrastructure agreement, and the promise of Chinese trains and planes for the continent — it was Li’s emphasis on ‘innovative and pragmatic cooperation’ that was telling of a new phase in China–Africa relations. Read more…