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…

The strategic implications of US–China codependence

US President Barack Obama and China President Hu Jintao take their seats during the G20 Summit, June 19 2012, in Los Cabos, Mexico (Photo: AAP).

Author: Stephen M. Harner, Forbes.com

In a world experiencing dramatic, epochal changes, few regions are changing more dramatically than East Asia.

The past two decades have seen an historic reversal of fortunes between the region’s two dominant economies and societies, China and Japan, the consequences of which are changing global politics.

Read more…

US–China collusion and the way forward for Japan

Guided-missile destroyer USS John McCain (L) pulls alongside the aircraft carrier USS George Washington during a refueling at sea during the "Keen Sword" US-Japan joint military exercises in the Sea of Japan close to the coast of South Korea, 5 December, 2010 . (Photo: AAP)

Author: Susumu Yabuki, Yokohama City University

Many people think that current US–China relations are comparable to US–Soviet relations during the Cold War. This is completely mistaken.

It is often said that the US and China are rivals — even potential combatants — in areas near Okinawa and the South China Sea. Some Japanese military strategists go as far as asserting that Read more…

Japan’s foreign policy and avoiding the unthinkable

Mt. Fuji is seen between Shinjuku skyscrapers in Tokyo, Japan. The new Abe policy ‘Strategic Special Zones’ focuses on the development of Tokyo and other major metropolitan cities through regulatory reform and fiscal incentive measures. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Building a stable international order in Asia and the Pacific, in which a major international conflict remains unthinkable, requires a number of elements.

Understandably much of the focus on thinking about avoiding the unthinkable, to date, has been on the how to manage the rise of China’s power and its impact on America. Read more…

China, and Japan’s foreign policy posture

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda delivers his speech during his press conference at his official residence in Tokyo on 30 March 2012. The national interests of Japan in the Asian Century will not be achieved without enmeshing its national strategy with the emergence of a stable, prosperous and civilised Asia. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Yoshihide Soeya, Keio University

Many thought after the end of the Cold War that the time of traditional balance-of-power games was over.

Japan, too, attempted to re-establish its international presence by responding to the new trend of multilateral cooperation, and sought to help build a new international order in Asia and the world. Read more…

Japan’s ballistic missile defence system

US Navy guided missile destroyer Lassen in Tokyo Bay heading to the US Navy base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, 3 Feb. 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Norifumi Namatame, ANU

After North Korea tested its Taepodong I missile in 1998 over Japanese airspace, Japan made the decision to develop its ballistic missile defence (BMD) system in cooperation with the US.

The system comprises a mid-course phase (upper-tier) Standard Missile 3 Bloc IA system loaded onto four Aegis ships, and a 16-unit terminal phase (lower-tier) Patriot PAC-3 defence system, which has been deployed to four sites on Japanese soil. Read more…

Why don’t the Japanese take to the streets?

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan (R), Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara (2L) and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku (L) leave the lower house's plenary session at the National Diet in Tokyo on November 2, 2010. (Photo: AFP/Yoshikazu Tsuno

Author: Tobias Harris, MIT

The Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer has an op-ed in the IHT in which he argues that despite widespread pessimism among Japanese regarding their country’s future, things may not be so bad. He suggests that the DPJ may well be learning to get along with business elites and bureaucrats, Japan and the US may be rebuilding their relationship after a remarkably bad year for the alliance, and, finally, the Japanese people have not taken to the streets in opposition to their government.

The first two arguments are more or less acceptable, although there is little to praise in how the Kan government prevaricated and ultimately failed to lead on the issue. Read more…

Japan must support liberal international order

JATAWTF - Tokyo 2008

Author: Yoichi Funabashi, Asahi Shimbun

This month the Asia-Pacific region takes center stage in global diplomacy.

A Group of 20 summit meeting is being held in Seoul, followed by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit meeting in Yokohama.

U.S. President Barack Obama is also scheduled to visit India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan in November.

A number of pressing issues will need to be tackled at those forums. Delegates must figure out whether a new international order can be created that would move from the framework established after World War II in which the Group of Seven advanced economies managed the world economy, to one that includes newly emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa. Read more…