Japan's Reluctant Realism

  • Green M
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- Since the end of the Cold War, the following features have been prevalent:i) The centrality of the United Statesii) The primacy of economic toolsiii) Constraints on the use of forceiv) No alternate strategic vision: “No political leader has articulated a clear alternative to the current doctrine of Japanese foreign policy.” (5)-- The following trends have also emerged, and are worth watching:i) Greater focus on balance of power: “Confidence that Japanese economic leadership would integrate China on Japan’s terms has ebbed and a new realism has emerged regarding the limits of Japanese economic influence and the growing power aspirations of Beijing.” (6)ii) Frayed idealismiii) Higher sensitivity to securityiv) More determined push for an “independent” foreign policyv) Focus on Asia: “The expansion of trade and investment in East Asia has naturally heightened Japanese sensitivity to the region’s priorities, particularly in South East Asia.” (8)vi) More fluid foreign policy making process-- The “Yoshida Doctrine” established non-militarism, economic primacy, and the US Alliance. He was followed by Hatoyama in 1956, who advocated normalising relations with the Soviets and revising the Constitution. Then came Kishi, who revised the US-Japan Security Treaty in 1960. Then came Ikeda, who focused on economics. Then came Sato, who introduced the three non-nuclear principles in 1967. Then came Tanaka, then came Miki, who introduced the 1% rule.-- Green asserts that the Gulf War (international) and the bursting of the bubble (domestic) changed Japan’s world view. (17) Japan’s response was to push for PKO legislation that would allow the dispatch of the JSDF to the Gulf. It was finally passed in 1992.-- In 1992 Ozawa led a commission on Japan’s Role in International Society, which they hoped would lead to a change in the Constitution. Ozawa’s position changed later to argue that the Japanese Constitution follows the UN Charter, and therefore Japan should be able to participate in UN actions without constitutional revision. (19)-- Green says Japan’s international position is under increasing pressure because of:i) Economic problemsii) Changed North-East Asian security environment, most importantly relations with China. Previously it had pursued economic interdependence with China, but China nuclear tests (1995), missiles at Taiwan (1996), and history problems made it more wary of bilateral relations. North Korea has also had a big effect – “in August 1998 the North test-fired the longer-range Taepo-dong missile right over northern Japan – a brazen ac that shook the Japanese out of their remaining complacency about North Korea the way Sputnik shook the United States in 1957.” (22)-- Hatoyama got elected to the leadership of the DPJ in 1999 calling for a more autonomous defence. This was the first time in the post-war period that both major parties had this as part of their platform.” (24)-- Support for rewriting the constitution is driven by the desire to get rid of the subordination to the US, rather than the desire for greater autonomy in defence. (25)-- Three commissions in the 1990s were established to look at Japan’s role in the world: 1) “Challenge 21” (1999 final report) commissioned by the Comprehensive Foreign Policy Bureau of MoFA in 1997; 2) “Japan’s Initiatives Towards US, China and Russia, commissioned by the Japan Forum on International Relations in 1999; 3) “Commission on Japanese Goals for the 21st Century” (final report Jan. 2000) commissioned by Obuchi. Also November 2002 had the FP Taskforce from MoFA called “Basic Policies of Japanese FP for the 21st Century.”-- Green argues that the changes that we have seen in the 1990s in Japanese FP have taken place in a relatively benign strategic environment, because the US has primacy, China remains in check, and Japan’s economy continues to be No.2. As such he mainly sees domestic reasons for the change in Japanese FP.-- Green argues that Japan is pursuing a two-track policy with China. On the first level it continues to give huge amounts of ODA, while at another level it is actively trying to balance against China. (78)-- After the nuclear tests by the Chinese in 1995 MOFA and METI agreed to move China loans away from multiyear loans to annual negotiations in order to increase leverage. (81) Green argues that the tests forced Japan to understand that it had little leverage to show from its years of ODA spending.-Ch.2 Domestic Institutions and Foreign PolicyQuotes“In the post-Cold War era, the broad parameters of the Yoshida Doctrine are still in place…The Right…now expresses its proactive internationalism as the logical extension of Yoshida’s own vision.” (13)-“Economic interdependence, underpinned by Japanese economic lead, no longer provides a reassuring context for Japan’s future role in East Asia…It is now also about how to retain Japan’s international position and influence in an era of uncertain power.” (22)-“It is this fear of entrapment and frustration with US domination that has led many intellectual and political leaders in Japan to call for more Japanese control of the alliance mechanisms.” (23)-“The changes in the Japanese worldview…are the result of material circumstances – the decline of relative Japanese economic power assets and the rise of Chinese power in Asia – colliding with the aspirations of a new generation and the steady transformation of domestic Japanese political and economic institutions.” (34)-“The 1955 system is over. The transition to a new equilibrium has only begun. Though no one is certain what is coming, the impact on Japanese foreign policy for the near term is already evident.” (73)-“the declining autonomy and confidence in the bureaucracy has meant that…it is becoming relatively easier to argue against external pressures than to manage an increasingly complex and unpredictable decision-making process internally.” (74)-“the institutional constraints on Japanese security and foreign policy have weakened.” (74)-“Nothing marks Japan’s shift toward reluctant realism more definitively than the changing relationship with China.” (77)-“The end of the Cold War opened the prospect of tenser bilateral relations because Japan and China were no longer directly aligned against the Soviet Union.” (78)-- The only time that Japan has explicitly stated that the defence of Taiwan is important Japanese security is in the Nixon-Sato Communiqué of 1969. Japan baulked at putting regional contingencies in the new Guidelines completed in 1978, partly because it was negotiating a treaty of friendship with China at the time. (81)-- The end of the Cold War caused the framework of security ties with the US and economic ties with China to unravel. Japan came under pressure to contribute to Iraq and North Korea.-- In November 1995 Japan revised the National Defence Program Outline (NPDO) which came into effect in 1976. Clauses on UN participation were added. The revision began in 1993 in the Hosokawa government.-- In April 1996 Hashimoto and Clinton promised to review the US-Japan Security Declaration to include information on the surrounding areas question. This was significant because it came just after China had launched missiles at Taiwan in March 1996. The only reason it was signed then was because Clinton was kept back from the APEC meeting in Nov. 1995 because of the budget crisis in Congress. The Chinese saw the guidelines as a response to the Taiwan Straits incident, but in reality it probably eased the passing in the Diet, but didn’t cause it.-- “The Taepo-Dong experiment also cleared the way for the Japanese government to announce its participation in research on joint theatre missile defence with the United States in October 1998, despite concerns about costs, feasibility, and Chinese objections.” (126) It also led to the Obuchi government to develop an indigenous satellite capability in November 1998.-“With rising Chinese power and fluidity in the Northeast Asian security environment, Japan had no choice but to improve relations with Russia to prevent the emergence of a Sino-Russian alignment in the Eurasian landmass at Japan’s expense.” (146)-As MITI minister in the Murayama cabinet, Hashimoto had overseen the creation of a plan for expanding Japanese trade and investment with Russia in large part to balance the Japanese business community’s rush to invest in China in the early 1990s. (152) (See Sekai, March ’98 – “Eurasia Gaikou no Butai Ura”)-“A veteran of the Asian Affairs Bureau of MoFA recalls that 1996 was a watershed year as officials focused on how to use ASEAN as a “balancer” in the increasingly complex US-Japan-China triangle” (171)-“At the centre of Japan’s growing concern over ASEAN solidarity is a more straightforward focus on balance of power – or at least of influence – with China.” (189)-“It is likely that the Japanese political elite will continue moving incrementally…toward acceptance of a more “normal” national security policy. This trend is fuelled by the economc problems Japan faces, by the growing sense of vulnerability to China and North Korea, and by generational change.” (272)




Green, M. J. (2001). Japan’s Reluctant Realism. Japan’s Reluctant Realism. Palgrave Macmillan US. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780312299804

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