Thursday, 13 October 2011

Outlook of Japan's Foreign Policy Under Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)

Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, met U.S.'s President, Barrack Obama at the United Nations.

The rising Yen is a major problem for Japan's export. How to deal with the main challenges of Japan's economy are still the priority of the new Administration.  

Recently, the axis of power and economic growth has shifted to Asia, espcially China, Japan, South Korea, and ASEAN countries. In late 2010, with a double-digit growth annually, China has surpassed Japan to become the Second world economic power. However, Japan is still a country casting the sphere of influence, in term of regional cooperation and integration. Since the 1990s, Japan has made considerable contribution to the international community through its active foreign policies and commitment. As, now, the third world economic power, Japan is also a major regional power in East Asia and continues to play significant role in contributing peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and in the world. For example, Japan-US Alliance and South Korea-US alliance have maintained peace and stability in East Asia in facing with regional security challenge, especially North Korea’s nuclear threat. In development issue, Japan is a major donor country in providing Official Development Assistance (ODA) to least developed countries in the world, especially ASEAN countries.

In 2009, Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama asserted that Japan is a “bridge” between the East and the West, developed and developing countries, and between diverse cultures across the globe. Therefore, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has to deal with significant challenges and to formulate successful foreign policies in order to promote its national interest. So far, Japan’s leadership has changed from Hatoyama to Naoto Kan in 2010, who faced the most serious earthquake and Fukushima nuclear plant crisis on 11 March 2010 and its aftermath since then, and, recently, to Noda’s Administration in August 2011. Japanese people and the world are waiting to see the new foreign policy to be forged by the new Japanese Prime Minister, Noda. However, the main pillar of Japanese foreign policy is still the same, the US-Japan Alliance Treaty, and its friendly relations with the East Asian neighbours, China, South Korea, and ASEAN. In line with this, Japanese Government has to assign the right and capable diplomats to work in other countries to promote bilateral and multilateral relations and to realize priority foreign policy as set forth by each Premier.   

I.                   Japan’s Foreign Polices

As a responsible member of international community, Japan’s foreign policies have to be active, proactive, comprehensive, and open. Generally, foreign policy is the main tool and guiding principles in establishing relations with other countries, regional organizations, and international institutions based on reciprocal basis, and universal values and norms. At the heart of foreign policy is the national interest which a country has to protect and promote in establishing relations with foreign countries. So, the main concepts of Japan’s foreign policies are shaped by its geographical location, economy, history, and the recent challenges in the region and in the world.

A.    Geographical Location
First, on geographical location, Japan is located on the Far East of Asia and is in the middle of Asia-Pacific region. Japan is called a “country of sun rise” where the light of sun rise will reach on Japan Island first before reaching other countries in East Asia. This means that Japan is the first country in the early morning to wake up and get to work. Perhaps with this reason, Japan is the first country in Asia, which has successfully modernized itself. Japan’s modernization has started since the Meiji period in the late 19th century, which has made Japan as one of the world major powers at that time, especially after its victory in Russo-Japanese war in 1904. Located in the Pacific Ocean and East Asia, Japan is the unique country to gain the best strategic location in the region and the maritime territory. In term of maritime territory, Japan ranks 6th in the world to have a vast territorial sea which is abundant of maritime resource and the most active sea lane for transport and military activities. With a population of 128 million, it is also an archipelago of 6,852 islands with the total length of approximately 2,000 km. With this strategic location, Japan has played vital role in maintaining peace and security in the Asia-Pacific. Especially, the Japan-US Security Treaty is cornerstone of Japan’s foreign policy and contributes to peace, stability, prosperity in East Asia.

B.     Economy
Second, with its fully developed economy, Japan had been the second world largest economy after the United States until 2009. However, with the recent global economic crisis and the Eurozone's debt crisis, most countries have met economic recession or slow growth. Besides that, Japan has also faced social problems such as aging society and falling birth rate. In dealing with these challenges Japan has to maintain its global competitiveness and promote regional economic cooperation with China, South Korea, and ASEAN. Recently, Japan has proposed its initiative of East Asian Community (EAC) and makes it clear that the US membership in EAC is vital for Japan and the whole community. However, recently, under Noda’s Administration, Japan no longer give priority of its foreign policy to EAC due to rising conflict with China in the Eastern China Sea and South China Sea. With a huge population of 3.2 billion, the total GDP of ASEAN Plus Six (ASEAN, Japan, South Korea, China, India, Australia, and New Zealand) is 23% of the world GDP in 2008. In the regional framework, ASEAN Plus Six hold East Asia Summit every year to promote political, economic, and functional cooperation.

C.    History
Third, history has badly affected Japan’s image in the region. Japan occupation of its neighbouring countries and Southeast Asia and its war with the US in World War II has made its neighbouring countries feel distrust of Japan. In dealing with this problem, Japan’s foreign policy, especially under Hatoyama Administration, has been focusing on its East Asian neighbours to promote friendly relation and building of trust through diplomacy and economic partnership. With the initiative of East Asian Community in which Japan has long pursued, the “yu-ai” philosophy with a purpose of increasing fraternity in the region has been boosted, thus promoting the feeling of trust and mutual understanding, and cooperation with the neighbouring countries and Southeast Asian Countries. 

II.                Recent Global and Regional Challenges

The recent regional and global challenges have made Japan in the spotlight of world politics. The North Korea’s nuclear threat has become a hot issue for Japan and the international community. The recent North Korea’s nuclear test and missile tests have prompted considerable foreign policies’ response from Japan. In the Six-Party Talks, Japan has played important role in negotiation toward the denuclearization of North Korea. The rise of China and its increasing military expenditure and its naval capability, and the revival of Russia and its occupation of the Kuril Islands have been the major concern of Japan’s foreign policies. So, it is very important for Japan to maintain and strengthen its alliance with the US under Japan-US Security Treaty. Furthermore, the majority of Japanese people support US-Japan Alliance. On nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, Japan has shared the same view with President Obama to have “a world without nuclear weapon”. 

III.             International Cooperation

In the field of international cooperation, Japan is the leading developed country in the world to provide a considerable amount of ODAs to developing and least developed countries. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is responsible for conducting integrated implementation of the three types of aid schemes, namely technical cooperation, aid loans, and grant aid. On the other hand, Japan contribution to peace-building and consolidation of peace, and reconstruction is highly appreciated and recognized in the international community. For example, Japan’s peacekeeping mission in Cambodia from 1991-1993 has contributed the peace and national unity in this war-torn countries which had been under civil wars for decades. Thanks to the Government of Japan for its historic mission in Cambodia. For Afghanistan, Japan has pledged to provide five billion USD for the reconstruction in this country and vocational training for the former Taliban militants to integrate them into the civil society. 

IV.             Conclusion

Under new Administration, Japan’s national interest remains unchanged. Japan-US Security Alliance has been reassured and deepened and remained to be linchpin of Japan’s foreign policies. The peace and stability in East Asia continue to depend on this security umbrella of the US in order to confront with nuclear threat from North Korea, and the South China Sea dispute between Southeast Asian states and China. Unlike LDP’s government, the new government of Japan has established a more substantive and friendly relations with the neighbouring countries and ASEAN through the possible establishment of East Asian Community in the long-run period with increasing regional economic integration and bilateral Free Trade Areas (FTAs) with ASEAN member states. Although EAC is no longer the priority of Japan's foreign policy after Hatoyama's Administration, Japan is still an active and main supporter in ASEAN+3 frameworks. Therefore, with its active foreign policies, Japan is not only the economic power and the major regional player, but, perhaps in the long-run, Japan could be a global power if its bid to be a Permanent Member in the United Nation Security Council is successful. Needless to say, it surely depends on the good diplomacy and right foreign policies of each Japanese Prime Minister.  

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