At the end of their G20 Osaka Summit on June 29, 2019, the most powerful leaders of the world’s most powerful countries will release a communiqué containing many commitments to respond to the biggest challenges of today’s complex world. But their citizens, increasingly skeptical of the work of such governing elites, will doubt that these commitments will make any difference to their daily lives.
The Special Strategic Partnership between Canberra and Tokyo was established as a vehicle through which these countries coordinate their regional security cooperation. According to the annual Foreign and Defence Minister’s meeting Joint Statement it is “founded on common strategic interests and shared values including a commitment to democracy, human rights, free trade and the rules-based international order”.
The pledge to have a “partnership for peace” has fast emerged as a key threshold in India-Japan security relations in recent years. Under the rubric of promoting a “free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific” region, a new assurance of engagement seems to be unfolding with frequent bilateral naval exercises, including dialogues and training between the Coast Guards of the two sides.
The “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) is a foreign policy dictum presented by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016 with the aim of offering an alternative to China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI). On the one hand, the FOIP promotes connectivity, free trade and infrastructure development across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. On the other, the policy renews Japan’s efforts to uphold a rule-based order.
Despite for years leaving much to be desired, the strategic relationship between Japan and the EU has recently witnessed a significant boost. With the signing of tandem economic and strategic partnership agreements at the end of 2018, relations between the great civilian powers at each of Eurasia’s poles appear on the cusp of major change.
In the period between 2016 and 2018 the threat North Korea posed to Japanese security increased dramatically. In that period, the regime led by Kim Jong-un carried out three nuclear tests between January 2016 and September 2017, demonstrating that it had become a de facto nuclear power.
Many uncertainties exist surrounding the courses that the world’s two top economic powerhouses, the US and China, could take in the future. These uncertainties are significant, for they have the power to influence and shape both the foreign policy pursued by East Asian countries and universal international norms. Of the two, it is China’s future course, which is perennially difficult to predict.
Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) policy is at the centre of Tokyo’s economic and security strategy in the Indo-Pacific Region. Although Japanese policymakers do not admit to that in public, the FOIP is not only aimed at enabling Tokyo to economically compete with China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) but is also – and indeed equally importantly – ‘about China’, so to speak. Next to what is referred to as ‘Quality Infrastructure’, i.e.
The expansion of Tokyo’s security and defence ties in East, Southeast and South Asia inspired Washington – together with India and Australia – to get on board Tokyo’s strategy to deter or indeed contain China. Japanese policymakers and the pro-defence government led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continue to invest enormous political capital and resources into seeking to keep China’s economic, territorial and security ambitions in the region in check.
The Asia-Pacific has become the Indo-Pacific region as the US, Japan, Australia and India have decided to join forces and scale-up their political, economic and security cooperation. The message coming from Washington, Tokyo, Canberra and New Delhi is clear: China’s Belt and Road Initiative is no longer the only game in town and Beijing’s policymakers better get ready for fierce competition.