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…

Evolution of Japan’s Grand Strategy

A woman holds a Japanese national flag as she takes part in a rally, opposing China's territorial claim over the disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, at a park in Tokyo on Saturday, 22 September 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Richard Samuels, MIT

Finding the right distance between the United States and China is the most important strategic choice facing Japan today.

‘Getting it just right’ with these two powers will require both military and economic readjustments. Read more…

Prime Minister Noda and Fixing the Futenma Impasse

A unit of the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force honour guards hold national flags for visiting US Army General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo on 28 October 2011. The idea of relocating Futenma outside of Okinawa Prefecture greatly raised local expectations that Okinawa's excessive basing burdens might be decreased. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Hitoshi Tanaka, Japan Center for International Exchange

Just a few weeks after taking office in early September, Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, had his first meeting with US President Barack Obama in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

It was widely reported that first and foremost on the agenda for this meeting was the relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, with President Obama delivering a stern message that the time has come for results. Read more…

Koreas conflict to mark US-Japan relationship

South Korean survivors arrive as they are surrounded by relatives and media at a port in Incheon, west of Seoul, South Korea. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Tobias Harris, MIT

The exchange of fire between the North and South Korean militaries that left two ROK Marines dead and at least a dozen wounded, following closely on the heels of revelations regarding a new North Korean uranium reprocessing facility, strengthens hopes that the US and Japan might be able look past Futenma and strengthen their security relationship. The relationship has, of course, had a bit more wind in its sails since the standoff between Japan and China over the maritime collision near the Senkakus.

Can we really draw a straight line from regional instability to closer security cooperation between the US and Japan? Arguably this logic has worked in the past, with North Korean provocations from 1994 onward stirring Japanese policymakers to bolster Japan’s capabilities and launch new bilateral initiatives with the US, ballistic missile defense being perhaps the most notable example. Read more…

Casting off the old regime: The DPJ’s real challenge

Japan's Prime Minister Kan delivers his policy speech at the start of an extra session of the parliament in Tokyo. (Photo: Reuters)

Author: Haruko Satoh, CSIS

Kan Naoto’s re-election as leader of the ruling DPJ has given him the mandate to continue as prime minister. Most Japanese welcomed this outcome. They are dismayed by the state of national politics and the country’s inability to produce stable leadership since Koizumi Junichiro left office in 2006. Kan is the fifth prime minister since then.

But the path of political renewal in Japan is not over yet. For Kan’s re-election to become truly meaningful and restore the public sense that the change of power last August was the right choice, Kan needs to cast off the legacies of the 1955-regime of left-right tension within his party.   Read more…

US-Japan alliance: the 2006 roadmap’s impasses

U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye in discussion with former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, January 2010

Author: Tobias Harris, MIT

In the wake of its defeat the Kan government has made it patently clear that the Hatoyama government’s ‘ratification’ of the 2006 realignment plan was nothing of the sort — it is now saying that it will be impossible to complete negotiations before Okinawan gubernatorial election in November. The government once again is considering alternatives to the V-shaped runways to be built at Henoko bay, and is reluctant to impose a solution on the Okinawan people.

But, as the Wall Street Journal reports, American domestic politics is emerging as a new constraint on implementing the 2006 agreement. Both houses of Congress have voted to cut funding for the construction on Guam that is necessary to prepare the island to receive the 8,000 Marines and their dependants that according to the plan will move from Okinawa to Guam in 2014. Read more…

Towards a new security consciousness in Japan?

Japan and the US commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the US-Japan Security Treaty. (Photo: flickr user 'Amphibious Force 7th Fleet')

Author: Tobias Harris

During Japan’s 2009 general election campaign, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) ran on a platform calling for a more ‘equal’ relationship with the United States. While the party’s leaders left the meaning of the phrase vague, the general idea was that a DPJ government would be more assertive in defending Japan’s national interests in its dealings with the US, arguing that under the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Japan was too submissive when the US came asking for help in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The first test of the DPJ’s new approach to US-Japan relations was the dispute over the US Marine air station at Futenma in Okinawa. Read more…