What to expect from the new US–Japan Defense Guidelines

Ships from the US Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, including the George Washington Strike Group, steam together after the conclusion of exercise Keen Sword, a biennial exercise between Japan and the US, 16 November 2012. (Photo: US Pacific Fleet/Flickr).

Author: Ken Jimbo, Keio University

When the current Guidelines for US–Japan Defense Cooperation were released in 1997, the core strategic impulse of Washington and Tokyo was to deal with potential armed contingencies in Northeast Asia, namely regarding the Korean peninsula and Taiwan. As the US Asia strategy emphasised deterrence of and response to these contingencies, Japan reconfigured its alliance strategy from predominantly territorial defence to proactive cooperation with the US in ‘situations in areas surrounding Japan’. 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’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…

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…

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…

China responds to Japan–US ‘sushi’ diplomacy

Effigies of Shinzo Abe and Barack Obama are displayed at a May Day event in Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The Chinese media exhaustively covered Obama’s visit to Japan on 23–25 April. There were references to the exorbitant cost of the Abe–Obama sushi dinner and the ¥25 million worth of entertainment laid on by Prime Minister Abe. But it was Obama’s verbal guarantees regarding the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands that attracted the most attention. Read more…

Why Obama should abandon the pivot

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at the residence of the US ambassador in The Hague on 24 March 2014 on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hugh White, ANU

President Obama faced a stark choice when he went to Japan last week. Either he had to commit himself and his country unambiguously to supporting Japan militarily over the Senkakus/Diaoyus, or he had to accept that the ‘pivot’ — and by extension his whole foreign policy and US leadership in Asia — was no longer credible. Read more…

Abe’s defence ambitions alarm region

Camouflaged members of Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces airbourne troop hold automatic rifles on a UH 1 helicopter during the new year exercise in Narashino in Chiba prefecture, suburban Tokyo on 12 January, 2014. A total of 300 personnels, 21 aircrafts and helicopters took part in the open exercise at the defense forces Narashino training ground. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Gui Yongtao, Peking University

The move by Shinzo Abe’s administration toward lifting the ban on the exercise of the right to collective self-defence is not driven by the imperatives of the US-Japan alliance, nor by Japan’s internationalist aspirations to contribute more to global peace. Read more…

Japan’s strategic predicament behind the Yasukuni curtain

A Shinto priest leading Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he visits the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo on 26 December, 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hugh White, ANU

Why did Prime Minster Abe visit Yasukuni Shrine? Tessa Morris-Suzuki says:

His core aim is to ‘escape from the postwar regime’ — that is, to reverse the liberalising reforms introduced to Japanese politics and society in the wake of the Asia Pacific War — and his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine is a very explicit expression of that aim.

I don’t doubt that she is right, but her answer does lead us straight on to another question: Read more…

Abe’s Yasukuni visit escalates tensions in Asia

Protesters shout slogans during a rally against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, 27 December, 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: H. D. P. Envall, ANU

Visits by Japanese prime ministers to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan’s war dead (including convicted Class-A war criminals), have repeatedly caused tensions in Asia over the years. Yasuhiro Nakasone created controversy when he visited the Shrine in 1985. Junichiro Koizumi did substantial damage to Japan’s relations with South Korea and China by visiting annually between 2001 and 2006. Read more…

Is Abe threatening Japan’s democracy?

Protesters demonstrate against the approval of the state secrecy law in Tokyo. The banner states that the meaning of secret is unclear and expresses opposition to the law. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sebastian Maslow, University of Heidelberg

After his political resurrection in December 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has campaigned on the promise to ‘take Japan back’ from the institutional constraints of the country’s ‘post-war regime’.

With his pledge of (re)establishing a ‘strong nation’, Abe has pushed hard for revising Japan’s national security institutions and promoted a new strategy of ‘proactive pacifismRead more…

Japan cleaves to the United States

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama hold a meeting at the White House in Washington on 22 February, 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Yoichiro Sato, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University

The United States and Japan recently agreed to revise their Guidelines for Defense Cooperation. The Guidelines provide a broad framework for cooperation between the US military and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, and revision is expected to realign the two countries’ joint military operations to changes in the regional security environment. Read more…