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May 01, 2012

Politics & Society “100 Actions” Creating a Vision of Japan: 20. Alliance Power (Alliance and Partnership)

There are so many unresolved international issues in the neighborhood of Japan: the growing military might of China that is lacking in transparency; the maritime disputes with China over the Senkaku Islands and the natural gas field in the nearby seas; North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles; and the stepped-up Russian presence in the Far East. Because of these issues, tension remains high in the spheres of diplomacy and national security.

In particular, the threat from China’s increased naval activities is becoming serious. This not only affects Japan but has also raised tensions among Southeast Asian countries, most notably Vietnam and the Philippines which are embroiled in territorial issues involving the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

To counter the rise of China and to ensure the peace and prosperity of the East Asian region, it will not be enough for Japan to act on its own. The need for partnership with the United States as well as with ASEAN and other actors in the region is great.

In this context, the Bali Declaration that resulted from the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting of November 18, 2011 is highly significant. The Declaration commits participating countries to greater cooperation in maritime security as related to territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Another important development has been President Obama’s “return to Asia” policy and his first-time participation in the East Asia Summit (EAS) held on November 19, 2011. It is highly significant that the declaration adopted in this Summit Meeting refers to the problems of the South China Sea and emphasizes the importance of international maritime laws, respect for sovereignty and maintenance of territorial integrity, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

This form of cooperation and partnership involving Japan, the United States, and the ASEAN countries points to the future direction of policies vis-à-vis China. In the world of foreign relations, alliances (alliance and partnership) are of critical importance. Problems that cannot be countered alone may be resolved when a group of countries act in partnership, making it easier for a country to have its voice heard.

China has also adopted a proactive stance in developing alliances. It is particularly noteworthy that China is well on the way to establishing its leadership through the following bilateral and multilateral fora: the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICs, China-ASEAN Summit Meetings, China-Pacific Island Countries Economic and Development Cooperation Forum, China-Africa Forum, China-North Korea relations, and economic and military aid to Pakistan and Myanmar.

Against this backdrop, “Action Number 20” proposes the following measures available to Japan for promoting alliances as the cornerstone of its foreign relations.

1. Further Deepen the Japan-US Alliance

The United States is Japan’s one and only ally. For Japan, it is extremely important to develop diplomatic strategies with this alliance as a foundation. In the achievement of peace and prosperity in East Asia, the Japan-US alliance (Japan-US Security Treaty) is a very valuable international public good that must be further strengthened. A number of concrete actions should be taken in this regard, such as the early resolution of the relocation of the Futenma Air Base; holding regular meetings of the Japan-US Security Consultative Committee (the 2+2 Ministerial) for foreign relations and defense officials; enhancing the effectiveness of joint operations in the Japan-US alliance by reviewing Japan’s position on the right to collective defense; and facilitating cooperation in the field of technology through the revision of Japan’s Three Principles on Arms Exports.

2. Strengthen Bilateral Partnership Ties with Friendly Countries

With the Japan-US alliance as a foundation, Japan should act to further develop and deepen its bilateral ties with countries that share common values and interests, and are friendly to the United States as well as to Japan. These include Australia, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, and Turkey. Progress along these lines will serve as a touchstone for Japan’s foreign relations. Bilateral relations can be strengthened through the exportation of nuclear power reactors, high-speed train systems like the Shinkansen, or other areas where Japan enjoys a technological advantage, promoting investment by Japanese companies in these countries, and collaborations in tackling natural disasters such as the floods of Thailand. Partnership and cooperation with such G20 countries as South Korea, Indonesia, India, and Australia will prove to be especially important.

3. Strengthen Partnerships Using Existing Multilateral Frameworks

(1) Strengthen Partnerships with Western Advanced Countries of G7 and G8

The G20 made its entry unto the global stage with great fanfare. But given the incessant rivalry between the advanced countries and the emerging economies led by BRICs, it is becoming increasingly clear that the G20 is not suited to resolving global problems. Considering this situation, it will be important to go back to the G7 and G8 to strengthen partnership ties with the countries in Europe and North America that share the same values as Japan. The series of economic crises in Europe has pushed the world economy into a period of uncertainty and instability. It is exactly in such periods of time that Japan must share its experience and strengthen its partnerships.

(2) Strengthen Relations with the Asia-Pacific Region

Japan’s neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region have a special importance in this nation’s multilateral diplomacy. The center of political and economic gravity is moving eastward and in the direction of Asia. In light of this shift, it is vitally important for Japan to actively participate in and maintain a leadership position in the multilateral frameworks of the Asia-Pacific region comprising ASEAN + 3, APEC, and the East Asia Summit. In the context of taking the diplomatic initiative, Japan’s announcement that it will join the TPP negotiations has helped generate a momentum once again that Japan will be working with the United States to lead this region. It will also be very effective for Japan to restrain China by calling for peace on the seas. The critical point is that Japan should continue to play a leadership role in the region.

4. Strengthen Japan-led Multilateral Talks

(1) Actively Utilize the Tokyo International Conference on African Development

The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) is an international conference on the theme of African development, hosted by the Japanese government since 1993 in cooperation with the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank. The TICAD summit meeting is held every five years in addition to ministerial meetings which are more regularly convened. The Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV), which took place in May 2008 in Yokohama, took up such themes as economic growth, human security, and the environment and climate change. Participants included heads of state and government from 41 countries (including Chairperson Jean Ping of the African Union Commission), and representatives from 51 African countries, 34 development partner countries and Asian countries, and 74 international and regional organizations. Also present were various representatives of the private sector and NGOs. This brought the total number of participants to more than 3,000 to make this one of the largest international conferences in Japanese diplomatic history.

Japan has fallen far behind China in the number of its overseas diplomatic missions and of its diplomats stationed abroad. As TICAD constitutes the most important tool for Japanese diplomatic initiatives in Africa, continued efforts should be made to strategically utilize it.

(2) Strengthen Partnership with Pacific Island Countries

Every three years, Japan holds the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) with the member states of the South Pacific Forum (Australia, Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu). Starting in 1997, PALM has been convened on five occasions. Because the countries of the South Pacific Forum have a very important role to play in ensuring stability and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region, this summit meeting should be used to promote cooperation in such areas as official development assistance, environmental protection, fishing, and the exchange of youth.

While these are the “Actions” recommended for enhancing “alliance power”, there are many other issues and challenges that must be addressed. How should Japan approach the issue of establishing alliance and partnership relations with the Middle East and Arab countries? How should Japan deepen its ties with the countries of Central Asia? How should relations with the non-APEC countries of Central and South America be bolstered? It is obvious that there is no shortage of issues when considering the development of alliances and partnerships.

While the challenges are many, the diplomatic resources available to Japan in the form of human and financial resources are limited. Therefore, the situation requires strategic prioritization.

How can Japan go about winning “friends” in the world—that is, allies and partners? This is the crux of the matter. In time of need or in the event of an emergency, what really counts are the cooperative ties, the relations of give and take and reciprocal support established with these friendly countries. A crucial key in making friends and finding partners is the ability to establish priorities. Equidistant diplomacy sounds fine, but strategic relations cannot be developed without a clear awareness of what is important and what is not.

The top priority for Japan is to have allies that will come to its aid and protection if this country ever comes under attack. The second most important thing is to strengthen bilateral relations with neighboring countries. Often this means growing closer to the allies of one’s own ally. Finally, a key challenge for Japan is to use existing multilateral frameworks to build relations and to establish new multilateral frameworks in which Japan can exercise its leadership.

To develop these ties, Japan has to have certain powers that will render it attractive to prospective partner countries. In this context, the most powerful weapons in Japan’s arsenal are its economy and its technologies. Without these, it is doubtful if Japan will even be able to sustain its culture. Economic diplomacy is the power that Japan has at its disposal. Thus it follows that Japan must maintain and increase its economic power in order to bolster its diplomatic power.


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