Forget the political parties that are contesting Japan’s parliamentary election this weekend. The real choice for Japanese voters as they cast ballots is between cynicism and indifference. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has called a snap election less than halfway through the parliament’s term – but not because his parliamentary majority is at risk and voters need to give him and his party a new mandate. Just the opposite: Abe has called an election to exploit a disorganized opposition and protect his own back. This is breath-taking opportunism.
Economic good sense and reforms as opposed to ill-fated nationalism and historical revision. In a nutshell, this is what Japan’s current and most probably also future government should be able to provide the Japanese electorate with after Japan’s Lower House elections on December 14.
Abenomics is at a crisis point. The economy slipped back into recession in Q3, prompting a delay to the second planned consumption tax hike and a snap election. The Bank of Japan meanwhile has also reacted to weak growth by expanding its monetary easing programme. The latter decision may avoid a return to deflation but unless the ‘third arrow’ of Abenomics – structural reform – is activated, Japan’s relative economic decline is set to continue.
Two Asian leaders who planned to meet at the APEC meeting in Beijing actually did just that: on November 10 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for a short but nonetheless symbolically very important encounter. During their reportedly not exactly ‘warm-hearted’ encounter, Abe and Xi reportedly agreed to make efforts to work on maritime crisis management in order to prevent further Japanese-Chinese maritime clashes in disputed territorial waters in the East China Sea.
While the US is seeking a way of rebalancing China in East Asia its approach left space for interpretation. The strategy of positioning itself in Asia on basis of concrete security issues and alliances while keeping its involvement open is seemingly only one aspect of the new game. Today a more or less refined toolbox of ‘strategic persuasion’ was designed in order to deal with an increasingly influential and powerful China. Instead of engaging in a non-desirable and costly direct military opposition to China, the US tries to pull all the strings in order influence its behavior towards moderation particularly in East Asia. In so doing, Washington is encountering an expectation-perception gap. So far the strategy has not necessarily proven successful. In Beijing, strategic maneuvers were often not fully understood and responses did not turn out not as initially desired. The US’ pivot to Asia has aroused a primordial fear in modern China: containment by outside powers. With a return to more traditional language of balancing, in China the situation was better understood. Yet, the implication remains the same. China has in reaction adopted a more assertive stance in military affairs while gradually trying to limit political damage in the ASEAN framework.
Since the partition of the Korean peninsula, the crises between Seoul and Pyongyang have ranked high in the US political agenda. Nonetheless, the profile that the Obama administration has chosen to keep is relatively low. This choice has triggered criticisms, however the posture has brought its own benefits. Moreover, in a difficult economic situation, and in the face of increasing pressures for the curtailing of government expenditure, the ‘low profile’ approach meets the demands of a Congress whose support the White House increasingly needs. The main uncertainty is in the attitude of the PRC. However Beijing, more than any other nation, has a keen interest in keeping East Asia stable. This does not mean that China will become a sort of ‘US cop’ in East Asia. However, some forms of localized cooperation can be envisaged; a cooperation that could strengthen, as China will progress in occupying the international position that its leadership believes the country deserves.
“Rebalancing” to the Asia Pacific is the signature foreign policy initiative of the Obama administration. Despite the attention it has rightfully garnered, the rebalance remains poorly understood. In addition to misapprehension about its fundamental principles, discussion appears to be dominated by what this policy isn’t rather than what it is. This essay aims to clear up the confusion, explain what the U.S. is doing as it shifts its strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region, and its implications for the U.S.-Japan alliance.
The existence of territorial and diplomatic disputes in East Asia raises serious concerns and, if escalated, could risk the region’s stability and prosperity. Focusing on three territorial and diplomatic disputes involving Japan, the Northern Territories, Takeshima, and the Senkaku Islands, this article explores ways to manage those disputes so as to maintain regional stability and prevent the situation from escalating in consistent with international law, practice and norms. The most basic principles to be adhered in this regard include, first, allowing the other party (or parties) to disagree, and second, maintaining the status quo not trying to change it by force. While these measures cannot by themselves solve the disputes, we at least need to prevent the current tensions from escalating into armed conflicts amongst the involved parties.
On December 17, 2010, Tokyo adopted new defense guidelines, the “National Defense Program Guidelines” (NDPG). The December 2010 defense guidelines outline the country’s ten-year defense strategy and call for the establishment of a flexible armed forces structure with mobile units capable of rapid deployment in the case of a regional military crisis.
Territorial disputes are very much back on Asia’s security agenda. As the papers authored by Asian and European scholars and analysts explain, China is involved in many of the region’s territorial conflicts in East and Southeast Asia. Beijing’s increasingly assertive policies related to territorial claims in the East China and South China Seas are evidence that China’s economic and military rise is not only peaceful. Japan’s assessment of China’s policies related to territorial claims in the East China Sea is equally unfavorable. Beijing’s strategy to establish what Beijing refers to as ‘dual control’ in Japanese-controlled territorial waters airspace through naval and aerial intrusions confirm policymakers in Tokyo that Beijing is indeed a military threat directly challenging Japanese territorial integrity.