The Japan Forum on International Relations


JFIR Commentary

"JFIR Commentary" introduces news analyses and opinions in Japan on Japan's position in the international community, but they do not represent the views of JFIR as an institution.

October 21,2022

“Pro-American yet Autonomous” in a multipolar era

Introduction This article offers an independent examination of the global power changing relations within Eurasia and Japan’s position because of China’s rise, considering the Japan-United States (US) alliance and Japan’s relationships with the major Eurasian powers. Further, hopefully, it will be possible to position Japanese diplomacy toward Eurasia as a catalyst for pro-US yet autonomous Japanese diplomacy. Although the significance of “autonomous” is relative, it means that Japanese diplomacy must adopt a more flexible and multifaceted mindset than today, given the number of unforeseeable factors. Compared to the US, Japan is a nation with a different geopolitical position, national strengths, and national characteristics. Therefore, the regional and international perceptions differ between Japan and the US. Although the “multipolar worldview” is shared by the EU member states, China, Russia and other East Asian countries. the Japanese and the US media tend to be reluctant to use this term.   However, perceptions of “US hegemony” are receding. To what extent do we consider this at face value? Although the Japan-US alliance is the cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy, we must consider that global perceptions of the international order are changing in response to China’s rise. Nevertheless, few people believe that China’s rise will reach parity with the US in terms of overall strength in the next five to ten years. There remains a strong view that the US is the global hegemon and must remain the world’s police even if its influence is on the wane. Nonetheless, the gap between the US and Chinese power is narrowing. This is apparent when we consider the significant turbulence in the US, such as during the Trump administration. In a public opinion survey conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) at the end of 2020, immediately following the formation of the Biden administration, over half of the Europeans felt a strong sense of crisis about the shaking state of American democracy.   At this turning point, it is essential to rethink Japanese diplomacy and the world from a geopolitical standpoint. This is because, geopolitically, Japan could find itself caught between the US and the Chinese powers. It could easily become a dependent variable within the framework of US-China relations. To what extent can we act as intermediary over those intricate relations? Can Japan show its diplomatic insight? The ideal of Japanese diplomacy is to play an independent role as a bridge between the two sides. This opinion is often met with following response: “that’s sound in theory but impossible to achieve in practice.” It certainly will not be easy. However, should we give up, diminish ourselves, and settle for being a junior partner to the US because it is difficult to become an intermediary or a bridge? This raises an issue that reaches the heart of Japanese diplomacy. It may be a matter of lifestyle for individuals, but what about the nation?   Even if it might seem idealistic, I would like to consider how Japan can play an even more important political role in Asia and globally—to use a somewhat rhetorical expression, I would say “Pro-US yet autonomous diplomacy.” Nothing is better than having an independent and reliable friend. It is only natural for independent people and countries to have differences of opinion. However, if a relationship of trust is established, it should be possible to cooperate on a single goal astutely—it is proof of a powerful and dependable allied.   This scenario would require Japanese diplomacy to be increasingly flexible. Subsequently, it is essential to hone one’s insight sufficiently to convince neighboring countries and the world to conduct and communicate this insight effectively. One might call this “insight diplomacy.” This should not be limited to defense buildup discussions or arms races. Military realism is rousing, but the devastation in Ukraine illustrates today’s tragedy as its result. What we need in diplomacy now is political realism. In this context, while statements by officials with field experience are valued considerably, the current expectation is the appearance of states people and politicians possessing high levels of foreign policy insight. Japan is a trusted, safe country that numbers among the world’s leading nations in terms of overall strength. It has a good image based on strong credibility and a national brand. Therefore, it is neither rash nor reckless for a country to have its long-term, broad vision for the stability of the international order (=global governance) and be able to respond freely. If it is seen to waver in making positive commitments at the cost of stability, it will set back the world’s expectations for Japan. “It’s Time to upgrade Japanese Diplomacy!” – Indo-Pacific and East Asia are other options, but is there no other option in the form of Eurasian credibility diplomacy? (refer to “Ugoke, Nihon gaikō [Move forwards, Japanese Diplomacy!”, Diplomacy, Vol. 1, 2010).   1. Eurasia’s geopolitical significance A Different View of the Map – Reality of Japan’s Geopolitical Location First, Japan is a Pacific country and part of the Eurasian continent. We usually view Eurasia (the Asian continent) as being beyond the Sea of Japan. Moreover, there is a strong tendency to view relations with the United States, which is much further away across the Pacific Ocean, as being closer than those with China and the Korean Peninsula just across the Sea of Japan. I believe this to be unnatural. Despite having East Asian geographical and cultural attributes, the Japanese foreign policy has a twisted structure. It is more politically and diplomatically affine with the United States, far away on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. This has been a historical tradition since the policy of the Meiji era “out of Asia and into Europe,” but how long can this continue in the face of China’s and Southeast Asia’s remarkable growth? Let us take a look at Map 1.   Map 1: Japan Sea Rim and East Asian countries (Toyama-centered orthographic map) Reprinted from a map created by Toyama Prefecture   Maps have different meanings depending on how you look at them. Map 1 is the famous “upside-down map” published by Toyama Prefecture. Although the Sea of Japan divides Japan from continental Asia (Japan and China) from the standpoint of diplomatic strategy, in this map, it looks more like an “inland sea” sandwiched between the continent and Japan. It is more natural to view Eurasia and Japan as a single economic and customs zone. This map shows Japan in a different geographical position from the familiar Mercator map, which has the Pacific Ocean in the center of the map on an east-west horizontal axis.   Moreover, Japan is positioned as a “buffer state” between a continental (land power) and a maritime power (sea power). As seen from the continent looking out over the Pacific Ocean, Japan is a breakwater and fortress. Conversely, the Pacific side is a bulwark and outpost against continental advance. In other words, Japan is a double-edged breakwater from the perspective of the continent and the Pacific Ocean. Let us examine Map 2. It shows the US military defense force deployments worldwide, as seen from above the North Pole. They form a security network surrounding the Arctic Ocean. The US global military deployments span Hawaii, Okinawa, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, several military bases in Europe, plus the Fourth Fleet in the Atlantic, the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, the Third and Seventh Fleets in the Eastern and Western Pacific, and the Fifth Fleet in the Indian Ocean. In this sense, Okinawa and Guam occupy vital positions in defense of the Western Pacific and the Asian continent.   Map 2: US military deployments viewed from the North Pole Produced from Grand Atlas 2017(Courrier International), p. 115   Russian military ports and naval bases are situated on the other side of the Arctic Ocean. The strategic positioning of the Arctic Ocean is diametrically opposed depending on whether the US-Russian relations are hostile or friendly. The Sea of Japan holds the same geopolitical significance. As global warming makes the Arctic Ocean more practical, new developments in relationships between the US, China, Europe, and Russia are also possible.   Expanding Options for Japanese Diplomacy: Eurasian Perspectives Considering these two maps, it becomes possible to consider Japan’s geographic position in terms of politico-strategy—Japan’s geopolitical position; it is also about understanding the beginning of Japanese diplomacy. To conclude immediately, Japan’s position can be unstable because it is caught between major powers, but it can also benefit by handling this situation properly. Developing autonomous diplomacy has many constraints, but even if Japanese diplomacy has been characterized by altruistic diplomacy, it has negative aspects as well as positive, depending on the circumstances. Japanese diplomacy is strongly influenced by the relationships between the land powers (Eurasian powers, China, and Russia) and sea powers (maritime powers, the US and Britain) flanking it. The relationship between these two groups is a major determinant of Japan’s existential value and diplomatic positioning. In other words, Japan is a subordinate variable affected by the relationship between both groups. During the Cold War, when “sea power” was overwhelmingly strong, alliance with the sea powers was the only lifeline for Japanese diplomacy. Nevertheless, as the relationship between both powers grows more evenly matched, oscillating between confrontation, negotiation, and proximity, Japan must be prepared to take a more flexible stance. I think this is true realism.   Considering power politics, if the relationship between the US and China remains cordial, the Japanese archipelago will become a central region for transportation and commerce. Should tensions between the two powers escalate, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine will no longer be someone else’s problem. Again, Japanese diplomacy has always been strongly other-directly. A sincere, friendly relationship between both powers is certainly the best scenario for Japan. However, Japan can be said to have historically performed considerably well. It did not become a divided nation like Poland, Germany, or the Korean peninsula. Historically, Japanese diplomacy has been committed to stability and prosperity under the aegis of US power and has succeeded in bandwagon diplomacy. Before the Edo period, Japan was a member of the Greater China region through tribute and trade, a land power. Following China’s decline, Japanese diplomacy was based on an alliance with the United Kingdom and the United States, the leaders of modernization and sea powers.   An exceptional and regrettable period was from the early 1930s to the end of World War II. Despite strengthening its continental expansionist policy with Western help, Japan overextended itself in clashing with the Western powers. However, this could shake the foundations of Japan’s post-modern diplomacy should China transform from a regional power to a nation exerting a global influence (power transition). Japan will be forced to deal with a different international structure in Asia. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the changing situation in Eurasia. The meaning of “power transition” is surprisingly important to Japan. This was in the 1990s and early 2000s, the post-Cold War period, when Japanese diplomacy turned its attention to Eurasia. Subsequently, Japan’s Eurasian diplomacy became unenterprising from its position of prioritizing diplomacy with China and North Korea. From a long-term perspective, future trends in Eurasia and the response of Japan and the Japan-US alliance to these trends are unclear. As described at the beginning of this article, it addresses whether Japan’s geographical position between sea and land power can be considered in its politico- diplomatic view points and whether Japan’s diplomatic options can be further expanded by revitalizing its Eurasian diplomacy. It is also a simple question of whether Japan can remain a “detached Eurasian peninsula” amid the structural changes in the Eurasian international environment caused by the rise of China.   2. External Factors in the Transformation of the Eurasian International Environment Waning US Influence We list two external factors driving the transformation of Eurasia’s international environment. Popularly called “power transition,” it refers to the rise of China, but its inverse is the waning influence of the United States. The “New World Order” proposed by President George Bush, Senior immediately following the end of the Cold War failed to establish a clear vision. However, the rapid growth of high-tech sectors due to the IT revolution was the beginning of the US becoming a major power in the military, economic, and scientific fields. During the second term of the Clinton administration and the beginning of the George W Bush era, the US transitioned to an “era of hegemony.” Nevertheless, the Iraq War was the second most painful experience for the US after the Vietnam War. The US has since been forced to take an extremely cautious attitude toward intervention in other countries and deploy its troops overseas.   Meanwhile, Russia has revived itself through resource exports, and China has achieved remarkable economic development; they have drawn closer together in Eurasia. The Obama administration shifted its policy toward a “Rebalance to Asia” in response to China’s expanding influence in 2011–12. This has not succeeded in stopping China’s maritime expansion and North Korea’s nuclear missile development. However, the Trump administration’s hard-line stance toward North Korea and China has caused considerable anxiety worldwide that US policy might be implemented consistent with Presidential rhetoric. There were strong opinions within the administration that this should be suppressed; the US-North Korea talks are a manifestation of this. Despite being different in appearance, Biden’s diplomacy is a continuation of the previous administration. In this sense, the unipolar system under the US-style “liberal democracy” and the coexistence system of powers with shared worldviews resulting from the multi-polarization in Eurasia will continue. I once considered this conflict as a clash between two universalisms. I said that it would persist at least until the end of the first quarter of this century (see my works, “Post-Empire: The Clash of Two Universalisms,” Surugadai Shuppan, 2006; and “US-European Alliance and Conflict,” Yuhikaku, 2008).   Transformed Geopolitical Significance: Birth of the Arctic Sea Route Another factor contributing to Eurasia’s transformation is the change in the natural environment and the accompanying changes in the strategic map. The geopolitical position of the Sea of Japan is expected to become more significant as a strategic transportation route for China, Japan, and South Korea. This is the birth of the Arctic Ocean route. China’s ambitions for Arctic shipping routes, which will become navigable year-round due to global warming, are remarkable. This issue also marks a shift in geopolitical thinking in Eurasia. This means that Eurasia will no longer be a continent with its northern exit blocked by the Arctic Ocean but a new Eurasian island surrounded by the sea on all sides. The coastal areas around the Arctic Ocean are strategic points for Eurasian countries, as shown by the location of the US military bases on the map and for trade and transportation routes. In other words, in addition to the transportation routes surrounding Eurasia through the Pacific and East China Seas, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean, the wide availability of the Arctic Ocean route will redraw the map for new transportation routes in Eurasia. In addition to the previous geographic routes along an east-west axis, the development of vertical routes extending north-south will amplify the new geopolitical significance of Eurasia. Consequently, the Eurasian power map could be significantly modified. Such a scenario would likely require a new axis in Japan-Russia and Japan-China relations framework. Will this be an “open Eurasia”? The answer will depend on the future efforts of the countries involved. 3. Distribution of Multi-Layered Spheres of Power Three “Spheres of Power” through the Multilateral Cooperation Framework and India Roughly speaking, international relations in Eurasia are evolving through the merging of five spheres of civilization and three spheres of influence. The five spheres of civilization are Confucianism and the Chinese world, Orthodox Christianity, Christianity, modern democracy and market economy, Hinduism, and Islam. The three spheres of influence are China, Russia, and the EU, each with its cohesive power. As a matter of terminology, the term Russian “sphere of influence” has become common due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, this tends to be used in the sense of a military defensive sphere. Therefore, I use “sphere of influence” without strictly distinguishing between military and non-military powers.   The spheres of influence were limited to three because of some question as to whether the Middle East region and India as a major power, can be called a sphere of influence, although it is a sphere of civilization. These two regions were omitted because no power has a strong, cohesive sphere of influence over the surrounding area. Although the Middle East region is broadly categorized as an Islamic religious sphere, its internal situation is complicated and divided, with religious conflicts often crossing national boundaries, and there remains no clear existence of a cohesive national power. Moreover, amid friction with China and the Muslim world, India does not have the power to unite with its neighbors as other countries in the center of their spheres of influence do. However, it is making its presence felt in diplomacy as a major nation. Nevertheless, the EU lacks cohesive power but is a sphere of influence that does not, in theory, assume a core power because it uses democracy as its integrating principle. Undoubtedly, Germany and France are its central forces. Nonetheless, the EU possesses considerable influence and could be called an economic power, albeit not military power, and a force that disseminates its governing principles and other modes of social norms and order—normative power. In Eurasia, the three spheres of influence (China, Russia, and the EU) and India compete and cooperate. As a sea power, the US is attempting to develop a new axis of diplomacy with each administration. Although not the theme of this book, I believe that the US can be described as a normative power, as it has been called a powerhouse of ideas; however, the range of the US is not regional but global and universal. The EU’s range was regional but is steadily expanding its scope to the global scale.   China’s Aim for “A Community with a Shared Future for Mankind” First, the rise of China is symbolized by the “One Belt, One Road” concept proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013. It is a win-win concept of cooperation and interdependence encompassing political, economic, and cultural fields, but each area and plan is not necessarily closely connected to the others. Although it is a vague concept of China’s sphere of influence and power, this “Chinese dream” proposed by Xi Jinping indicates China’s strategic intent, which has brought expectations, anxiety, and alarm to neighboring countries and the entire Eurasian region.   Its core encompasses a vast area stretching from Eurasia to Africa. In Japan, discussions concentrated solely on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), led by China, but that is only part of this concept. One Belt, One Road is China’s plan to expand its sphere of influence and power throughout Eurasia, right up to the EU member states. Although China calls for cooperation in the “five connectivities” (policy, infrastructure, trade, investment, and people exchanges), the reality is an accumulation of bilateral relations with China as the hub, which China calls “global governance” or “multilateral relations.” The language may be the same as in the US and Europe, but its substance is interpreted in Chinese. In 2017, China established its first overseas supply base in Djibouti, East Africa, at the meeting point of the Eurasian and African continents. It has acquired rights to use ports in over 30 key locations along the sea lanes connecting China with oil-producing Middle Eastern countries and Europe. It also has the deployment of military bases in its sights. As for securing sea lanes, the use of the Arctic Ocean is also linked to the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, dubbed the “Silk Road on Ice.” In January 2018, China released its “White Paper on the Arctic Policy.” The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) on the security front and the “+1” with Central and Eastern European countries, including EU member states, on the economic platform are Chinese-led multilateral frameworks.   Russia’s Prestige Diplomacy Second, what about the world as seen from Russia and Central Asia? Since the 1990s, many books on geopolitics have been published in Russia, analyzing international affairs from a Russian perspective. Historically, Russian identity is characterized by its identification with Westernization and a reaction to that identification. Russian diplomacy is characterized by a major power based on diplomatic skills and military power rather than economics. Putin’s diplomacy has no long-term vision but is said to prioritize restoring foreign prestige. The invasion of Ukraine, begun in February 2022, was intended to restore Russia’s “imperial” glory and prestige in response to NATO having nearly entirely encompassed the surrounding region. The beginnings of anti-US and European diplomacy under the Putin administration could already be seen during the controversy surrounding the Iraq war but became more pronounced after the “Color Revolution” of 2003–2004 and the EU/NATO’s eastward expansion. Putin’s speech at the Munich Security Conference in February 2007 criticized the US and Europe, reminiscent of the Cold War. Russia’s military intervention in Georgia during the 2008 conflict was the beginning of the events that led to the 2014 Ukraine conflict.   The Ukrainian conflict provoked economic sanctions by the US and Europe, dealing a heavy blow to Russia, which became more economically dependent on China, particularly on exports of liquefied gas and crude oil to China. Closer ties between China and Russia can potentially complicate geopolitical power relations in Eurasia. When French President Macron proposed a new “European Security Organization” to Russia in September 2019, it was intended to drive a wedge between China and Russia in Eurasia. Although public sentiment toward Russia and China in Central Asia is complex, Russia intends to strengthen its relations with the former Soviet republics and the Middle East. The Eurasian Economic Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (the five countries mentioned above plus Tajikistan) are two central regional organizations. Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan are not members of either, but they each maintain close bilateral relations with Russia. The Central Asian countries are pro-Russian, but the region is also relatively friendly with China. Like Japan, the Caucasus region, geographically sandwiched between the power blocs of Russia and the West, has always faced a delicate diplomatic situation. They have, respectively, adopted positions of neutral and balanced diplomacy (Azerbaijan), pro-Russia (Armenia), and pro-US-European (Georgia), with varying responses depending on their geographic and cultural distance from Russia.   The EU’s aim for normative power Third, the EU policy lacks a comprehensive “Eurasian policy.” However, the EU’s Eurasian policy can be considered an extension of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). Part of the Eastern Expansion, the “Eastern Partnership” is also part of the ENP. It is a policy of expanding a broad sphere of influence reaching Ukraine and the GUUAM countries (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova). However, in the EU’s case, conditions for membership include criteria centering on democratization and a market economy (Copenhagen Criteria). Nevertheless, the Neighborhood Policy also sets various detailed attainment goals based on European criteria for modernization, democratization, and human rights.   The EU calls itself a normative power, referring to its position of prioritizing contributing to establishing a common foundation for national principles and standards—influence in the form of soft power. The EU has historically had an affinity for Russia as part of its policy of balanced diplomacy with the US and China. There is a strong pro-Russian tendency in Germany, in particular. It is well known that former German Chancellor Schröder is an executive of an affiliate of the Russian oil company Gazprom. However, its transformation into an energy superpower and diplomatic offensive since the turn of the century under Putin’s regime has heightened alarm among the EU nations. Russia’s staunch military occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and its hybrid strategy in the Ukrainian civil war has imposed an image of the Soviet Union=Russia as a military power. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was an inevitable consequence of this.   However, Europe’s view of China is centered on the admiration for the country’s long history and its economic interests. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly wary of the aggressive aspects of China’s “One Belt, One Road” concept. Thus, the EU’s policy toward China can be summed up as one of proximity and caution. Nonetheless, from the “Strategy for a New Partnership between the EU and Central Asia” in 2007, the EU has been striving for closer relations with Central Asian countries to support and cooperate in areas of democracy promotion, human rights and good governance, security and counterterrorism, and energy and infrastructure transportation.   An Open Eurasian + Pacific Community: Insight for a role of Bridge to Eurasia There is no definitive, ingenious answer to how Japan should respond to the current situation in Eurasia described thus far. As discussed, Japan is in a geopolitical position where it is forced to conduct heteronomous diplomacy. How can it ensure diplomatic independence in such a situation? Japan should pay more attention to the geopolitical power politics of Eurasia. However, the current US policy has its limitations. It is one of “intervention and hedging.” Despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the US could not get directly involved, leading to further casualties. Therefore, Japan cannot take any particular action except fall behind the US and Europe primarily because Ukraine is geographically distant, but the lack of diplomacy with Eurasia may be the biggest problem.   What are the options for Japan’s Eurasian diplomacy in the future? We consider the following four options for Japanese diplomacy in the current situation: 1) countering the threats from China and North Korea by strengthening the Japan-US alliance; 2) maintaining ties with the Japan-US alliance while simultaneously working to ease tensions between Japan, China, and Russia; 3) seeking a “bridge diplomacy” in US-China relations; 4) striving to strengthen relations with Eurasia, including Europe, as an indirect means to achieve the above policies.   In practice, options 1 and 2 are being pursued. Whether diplomacy concerning option 2 is sufficient may be debatable, but Japan is attempting to maintain a stance of dialog while taking precautions against China and Russia. The issue lies with options 3 and 4. As a country at the eastern end of Eurasia, located between the two, Japan has emphasized alliances with sea powers and a path of cooperation with the US and the United Kingdom. However, if China, a rival power, expands, and a new balance of power is established, what role will Japan play between the US and China? The worst-case scenario for Japan is a negotiated agreement between the two powers over Japan’s head.   The memory of Kissinger’s secret diplomacy for Nixon’s visit to China, not divulged to the Japanese government in advance, is a recurring theme. Option 3 is diplomacy in which Japan can substantively demonstrate its presence between the US and China. Nevertheless, it is not easy under the current circumstances; many think it is impossible. This is nothing of the Senkaku Islands and other major frictions between Japan and China that come before the US-China relationship. Rather, given the North Korean missile crisis, I think there is a persuasive view that Japan is strengthening the Japan-US alliance to maintain its security. Some believe that if Japan acts strangely here, it could destabilize US relations. Such an attempt would destabilize Japanese diplomacy, leading to a high possibility of misunderstanding between the two major powers. As this is a wild-card choice, the only choice is between options 1 and 2. Most media and public opinion have settled on these as a safe start.   However, Japan would become a dependent variable if the US and China grew closer or reached a compromise. When the Cold War structure of the US-China confrontation was settled, with limited options for Japanese diplomacy, this was not the preferred international order but an unsafe one. Further, if this is the case, we must consider that it can break down. If the range of options available to Japanese diplomacy at that time was to be expanded, an approach to Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific was essential. The wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine are events that remind us of the importance of Eurasia. Power games backed by military power, mainly those of the US and Russia, will certainly not be the final solution to the problem.   In Eurasia, there is a multilateral framework with leading core countries at the center of their respective regions or spheres of influence. Would it be possible to put all of these into a single, large framework? These regions and multilateral cooperation organizations are not united in the desires of their major countries; there is also considerable frustration in the satellite countries of these spheres of influence. A framework like a “Eurasian Security Community” or “Eurasian Security Council” that includes Japan and South Korea should be preferable. A “collective security framework” differs from a “collective defense framework.” The latter describes cooperation to strengthen defenses against a hypothetical enemy and is premised on hostilities, while the former refers to cooperation to prevent or preempt hostilities. Japan should aim for the former. In Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE, the successor to the Cold War-era Council for Security and Cooperation of Europe (CSCE), including Russia and North America) is a security arrangement that has existed since the Cold War. There are questions about its usefulness because it has been unable to mount an adequate response to the Bosnian and Ukrainian conflicts in the post-Cold War era. However, this does not mean that the expansion of a military defense framework (NATO) brought peace; it only led to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While it is an idealistic view, I believe that Japan should pursue an Indo-Pacific strategy and make a sincere effort to seek a “Eurasian Security Community” and advocate for it on the world stage. Diplomacy acts behind the scenes to support security against the North Korean missile crisis and China’s navigation of the East China Sea. Indeed, linking Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific would be fitting for Japan. As seen with the OSCE, it is highly doubtful that a broad-based security framework would become an effective framework and structure. Nevertheless, a forum where Eurasian and Pacific nations can come together will be essential in the future. Although discussions regarding its realization today sound vague, there was a “Hashimoto Initiative” that intended to achieve this following the end of the Cold War. It will not be easily achieved, but I believe that showing the world its approach would serve to claim Japanese diplomacy to the world. It would be good for Japan to again propose a dialog to this end. While the outcome of such a dialog is important, the continuation of such a dialog is more important. This is because armed conflict can be avoided as long as that dialog continues. Losing channels for dialog or possessing only unidirectional channels is the greatest danger because it paves the way for armed conflict. The diplomatic acumen to persuade other parties and encourage cooperation is important to this dialog. The essence of political realism lies not in the imposition of one-sided ideals or worldviews but diplomatic actions through insight and dialog that make cooperation possible.   (Note) This article is heavily revised from my earlier article yūrashia kara mita kokusai seiji ─ ─ chiseigaku to gurōbarugabanansu no apurōchi [International Politics from the Perspective of Eurasia: Geopolitics and Global Governance Approaches] (JFIR World Review, Special Feature: ima yūrashia de nani ga okotte iru no ka [What’s Happening in Eurasia Today?], Japan International Forum, June 2018   (This is the English translation of an article written by WATANABE Hirotaka, Distinguished Research Fellow, JFIR/Professor, Teikyo University, which originally appeared on yūrashia dainamizumu to nihon [Japan’s Diplomacy in Eurasian Dynamism],  Chuokoron-Shinsha, July 2022.) p{text-align:justify}


August 15,2022

Japan’s Choice for “Eurasian Diplomacy”

Introduction On July 24, 1997, then-Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto delivered the following speech at a roundtable meeting of the Keizai Doyukai (the Japan Association of Corporate Executives). “I believe that amid the sweeping changes in international relations resulting from the end of the Cold War, the foreign policy of our nation has come to an important period in which we must significantly push to enlarge the horizon of our foreign policy toward the Asia-Pacific region as we forge a new diplomatic perspective. I prefer to call this perspective Eurasian diplomacy.”*1 A quarter of a century has passed since Hashimoto announced Japan’s “Eurasian diplomacy.” In Japan, this speech can be considered to mark the beginning of Japan’s Eurasian diplomacy. However, I say “can be considered” to emphasize that the concept of Japan’s “Eurasian diplomacy” continues to lack a clear definition even today. It is also difficult to define because different academics and policymakers have different views on the geographical scope and the goals of this diplomatic strategy. To begin with, the term “Eurasia” is seldom used in postwar Japanese diplomatic strategy. For example, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi’s foreign policy speech delivered at the 208th session of the Diet in January 2022 commented that the international community is currently undergoing a period of epoch-making change and emphasized the following two points. First, universal values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law and the international order have been exposed to severe challenges. Second, the advent of innovative technologies has rapidly broadened the scope of security. Subsequently, he raised the need for three resolutions (resolve to uphold universal values, protect Japan’s peace and stability, and contribute to humanity and lead the international community) based on the trust the world has placed in Japan due to the efforts of its predecessors. Moreover, the seven pillars were rearranged in the form of fields to which Japan should pay particular importance: (1) strengthening the Japan-US alliance; (2) realizing the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept;*2 (3) strengthening diplomacy with neighboring countries (China, South Korea, Russia, North Korea); (4) promoting regional diplomacy (ASEAN, the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, and the Caucasus); (5) leading international efforts to create new rules (economic security etc.); (6) addressing global issues; (7) strengthening Japan’s all-round diplomatic capabilities. However, these points express interest in Eurasian issues in maintaining and strengthening Japan-US relations, strategic dialog with neighboring countries, and the importance of the Eurasian continent in terms of religious conflicts, resources, and terrorism, among others. Moreover, they did not set a clear direction regarding and responding to the continent. The same trend can be seen in the Diplomatic Blue Book*3 published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s term of office in 2016–2019, the phrase “stability and development of the Eurasian region as a whole, including Japan,” was used. Nevertheless, in editions from 2020, “stability” and “development” were used interchangeably. This suggests that the term “Eurasia” was not being used in the context of Japanese diplomacy. Since the end of the Cold War, Japan has developed various diplomatic strategies with a broader perspective beyond the Japan-US relationship, such as the “Silk Road Diplomacy” (1997), the concept of “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” (2006), “Diplomacy that takes a panoramic view of the world map” (2012), “Proactive Contribution to Peace” (2013)*4, and the FOIP (2016). However, today, the international strategic environment in Eurasia is undergoing dramatic changes, including the materialization of China’s “One Belt, One Road” concept, North Korea’s missile proliferation, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the return of the Taliban, Brexit (the UK’s withdrawal from the EU), African politics and opening-up, and the beginning of shipping routes through the Arctic Ocean. In this context, has Japan been able to strategically envision an overall image for the future of “Japan as part of the wider world” and develop a medium- to long-term diplomatic strategy for the Eurasian continent? Rather than focusing solely on countering conventional threats from unfriendly nations and other threats, can Japan develop a multilateral diplomatic strategy with an overall view of the Eurasian continent to increase its future diplomatic options? This paper was written with precisely this question in mind. This paper aims to recall the past 25 years of Japanese diplomacy and ask about the diplomatic strategy that Japan has adopted toward countries of the Eurasian continent.*5 In discussing Japan’s Eurasian strategy, I would like to recall the diplomatic principles established by the Hashimoto, Obuchi, Aso, and Abe administrations, which cannot be overlooked, and raise the need to choose “Eurasian diplomacy” in Japanese diplomacy today.   1. Positioning of Eurasia in Japan Main stage for a “return to geopolitics” Eurasia is a portmanteau of Europe and Asia. Eurasia is one of the world’s largest continents, encompassing China and Korea at its eastern end, Europe at its western end, and the Indian subcontinent at its southern end, with the Japanese archipelago being the easternmost island nation (the Eurasian Peninsula). Japan’s ties to the Eurasian continent are historically deep. It is a well-known, established theory that Japan and the people of Eurasia have had close interactions (trade, migration, etc.) throughout history and that the prototype of the Japanese people has its origins in Eurasia.*6 However, the Japanese usually look at the geographically distant American Continent rather than the geographically closer Eurasian Continent. The Japan-US alliance has been the cornerstone of Japan’s postwar diplomacy at both home and abroad, and few Japanese deny the role and value of the alliance. Amid these circumstances, the free and open rule-based international order, mainly supported by advanced democratic nations such as Japan, the US, and Europe, is now in danger. Many commentators have highlighted a “return to geopolitics.” Conventional geopolitics is associated with names such as Halford Mackinder, Alfred Mahan, or Nicholas Spykman, who have used reanalysis to unpick contemporary society from various periods and perspectives. Eurasia is the main stage for today’s return to geopolitics. This region has been called the “crossroads of civilization” since ancient times. It has been a vital geopolitical crossroad at which the influences of China (east), Europe (west), the Middle East (south), and Russia (north) have intersected. The dynamics of the Eurasian continent are increasingly active, creating an extremely complex regional dynamism. For example, China is developing an expansive cooperation strategy across Eurasia with its military rise and maritime expansion. This includes the Belt and Road Initiative, comprising the “Silk Road Economic Belt” (land route)*7 and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (maritime route) and the “16+1” concept of economic partnership between China and Central and Eastern European countries. European countries are also moving to consolidate their position in Eurasia through economic proximity to China. The Middle East is experiencing a proxy war between the major powers in Yemen and Syria with the return of the Taliban. Russia has strengthened its economic ties in Eurasia, including Central Asia, and the Caucasus, through the Eurasian Economic Union, while committing a barbaric act of military aggression against Ukraine. Both events occurred in the Eurasian continent, and Japan cannot ignore either. While Japan is a country with limited natural resources, it is also one of the world’s largest energy consumers. Securing a stable supply of Eurasia’s abundant energy and diverse mineral resources is essential for Japan’s functioning. The Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011 and the subsequent nuclear accident that followed remain fresh in our minds and has triggered a fundamental rethinking of Japan’s energy and resource strategy. British Shell announced its withdrawal from the Sakhalin 2 gas development project in far eastern Russia (funded 12.5% by Mitsui & Co. and 10% by Mitsubishi Corporation). In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that his government would not withdraw from the project, citing Japan’s difficult financial situation. In an increasingly complex international society, Japan should broaden its diplomatic options by understanding Eurasia’s complex dynamics and international affairs.   2. Sprouts of Japan’s “Eurasian Diplomacy” – The Hashimoto Administration Hashimoto’s speech, mentioned at the beginning of this paper, prompted Japan’s first steps toward Eurasian diplomacy. Japan’s first step in its postwar diplomacy began with a two-pronged approach of concluding the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Japan-US Security Treaty—the San Francisco and the Japan-US security frameworks. Curiously, 2020 marked the 60th anniversary of the revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty, which forms the basis for Japan’s national security. At that time, Abe emphasized that “the Japan-US Security Treaty is now an unshakable pillar, protecting world peace and guaranteeing prosperity.” However, his successor, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, declared at his inaugural press conference in 2020, “we will develop policy based on a functioning Japan-US alliance.” Furthermore, Prime Minister Kishida announced at a press conference the day after taking office in 2021 that he would “further strengthen the Japan-US alliance” and “achieve the FOIP” (see Figure 1). Therefore, successive Japanese administrations will likely continue to emphasize Japan-US relations and develop the FOIP in the future. Figure 1: An image of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”   Essence of Hashimoto’s Eurasian Diplomacy Although alliances existed in prewar Japan, an alliance with a particular country for more than 60 years is extremely rare. In that sense, the United States and the Japan-US alliance loom large, considering Japan’s postwar diplomacy. The Hashimoto administration, which I will discuss shortly, was no exception. The Hashimoto administration also embarked on its journey amid fears of a drifting Japan-US alliance due to the rape of a young girl in Okinawa and issues surrounding the Futenma base. In January 1996, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama abruptly announced his resignation, and Hashimoto succeeded him as prime minister. In his policy speech on January 22, 1996, Hashimoto proposed his vision for “developing an independent foreign policy.” In a later interview, Hashimoto said on the matter of independence, “(hereinafter Japan) will not do what it is told to do but will make its own judgments and come up with its own ideas,” and testified his belief that Japan should do more in terms of security.*8 During his tenure, Hashimoto achieved independent diplomacy. The origin of this independent diplomacy can be interpreted as the confluence of two events in the Hashimoto administration: 1) return of Futenma from the US; 2) conception of strategic diplomacy between Japan and Russia, subsequently the mainstream of Hashimoto’s Eurasian diplomacy. The two events did not coincide by chance but inevitably because Hashimoto saw Eurasia as a single continent with many countries. Before the new administration’s inauguration in September 1995, the kidnap and rape of a young girl by US soldiers in Okinawa had caused outrage among the people of Okinawa. Therefore, conflict broke out between the national government and Okinawa Prefecture over the right to use the land where US troops were stationed under the Special Measures Law for US Military Bases. Hashimoto had always been interested in Okinawa as a politician, and he considered the return of the Futenma base an important issue. Nevertheless, Hashimoto was concerned that putting Futenma on the agenda could shake Japan-US relations. Hashimoto was faced with a last-minute choice of whether to put the return of Futenma on the agenda just before his first Japan-US summit meeting with then-US President Bill Clinton in Santa Monica. At this meeting, Hashimoto and Clinton discussed matters unreservedly, whether, by coincidence or necessity, the Futenma issue was slated for discussion.*9 Later, in 1996, the Japanese and US governments reached an agreement regarding the Futenma base that continues to this day. Second, Hashimoto had worked out a framework for diplomacy with Russia*10 and how Russia should be a member of Asia. An ingenious idea to this end was for Japan to handle the procedures for Russia’s accession to the “Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)” on its behalf.*11 However, Hashimoto had resolved to present a draft of the Eurasian diplomacy that had long been on his mind to bring Russia closer to Japan in a speech delivered to the Keizai Doyukai. In his speech, Hashimoto stated, “It is undeniable that of the interrelationships between the United States, China, Japan and Russia, which have a vital influence on peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan-Russia relations have lagged the most. (omission) Improving relations between Japan and Russia is the top priority for both governments as we head into the 21st century.” Further, he added that the three principles for improving relations are trust, mutual interest, and a long-term perspective. Subsequently, he emphasized, “Our goal, in line with these three principles, is to improve the overall relationship that exists between Japan and Russia and create a relationship reaching from the Asia-Pacific through to the Western tip of Eurasia from which both countries can benefit.” *12 Based on these statements, it can be inferred that the essence of Hashimoto’s Eurasian diplomacy primarily sought to bring Russia into Japan’s camp to further strengthen Japanese diplomacy.*13 Confirming this, a Japan-Russia summit meeting was later held (November 1997) in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. At this meeting, Hashimoto and then-President Boris Yeltsin agreed to make every effort to conclude a peace treaty by the year 2000, following the Tokyo Declaration. Therefore, Japan-Russia relations made steady progress after that. Nevertheless, unfortunately, the Japanese economy gradually deteriorated due to the Asian currency crises that began in the summer of 1997, and anxiety grew among the Japanese people. The approval rating of Hashimoto’s cabinet also dropped below 30%, and the government was now dangerously unstable, where it could no longer remain in power. Finally, Japanese citizens’ lack of distrust of government and unease about the future led to a wipeout of the Hashimoto regime in the 1998 House of Councilors election. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) held onto just 44 seats, and Hashimoto resigned.   3. “Silk Road Diplomacy” – The Obuchi Administration and Central Asia Following Hashimoto’s resignation, Keizo Obuchi succeeded as the prime minister. Obuchi actively engaged in “Diet member diplomacy.” From June 1997, he followed Hashimoto, touring Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan through projects such as the Russia-Central Asia Dialog Mission (delegation led by Obuchi), and strived to build relations between Japan and the Central Asian countries. The beginning of Hashimoto’s speech outlined what “Silk Road Diplomacy” meant: “The countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus, which have emerged from the vast Silk Road Region, are making significant efforts to establish rich and prosperous domestic structures under new political and economic institutions and create peaceful and stable external relations with their neighbors. I am convinced that Japan’s active assistance in the nation-building of these countries will surely have constructive significance for the newly independent states and the peace and prosperity of Russia, China, and Islamic countries and will expand the frontiers of Japanese diplomacy into the Eurasian region going into the 21st century.”*14 This speech shows that the “Silk Road Diplomacy” aimed to build stronger bilateral relations with the Central Asian countries. It was based on the three pillars: political dialog to strengthen trust and mutual understanding, cooperation in economic and resource development to create prosperity, and cooperation to achieve peace through nuclear nonproliferation, democratization, and stability.*15 A strategically key region rich in resources The Central Asian region remained a blank spot on the map until the 19th century. Mackinder once said, “He who controls the heart of Eurasia controls the world.” In the 19th century, Russia strategized to move southward into the Indian Ocean, competing with Great Britain for supremacy in the Central Asian region, which had colonies in India. Since their independence from the Soviet Union (now Russia), Central Asian countries have experienced several crises, including the Russian financial crisis. The region has become the site of the New Great Game between China and Russia (as their back yard)*16 because of its abundant rare metals, uranium, oil, and other resources. Japan is positioned in the corner of that region, and resource diplomacy with the resource-rich Central Asian countries is the most important issue for Japan, which is extremely dependent on resources and energy imports. In this sense, Central Asia can be regarded as a resource-rich strategic location. It has moved from being an isolated land-locked island deep in the Eurasian continent to connecting China and Asia with Europe from East to West, North to South, and Russia with Southwest Asia. Between October 22 and October 28, 2015, Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit Mongolia and five Central Asian countries (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan). Japan provided ¥12.7 billion in official development assistance (ODA) for constructing a thermal power plant in Uzbekistan. In Turkmenistan, Japan built a bridgehead for cooperation by proceeding with projects totaling more than ¥2.2 trillion, including constructing a natural gas plant. These moves strengthened economic ties and checked China’s growing regional influence. China was the largest trading partner of all five Central Asian countries, with Japan averaging only about 1%. In September 2013, President Xi Jinping visited Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan to further encourage the expansion of Chinese companies into the region. In a speech in Kazakhstan, he proposed an economic zone called the “Silk Road Economic Belt.” Additionally, China rapidly increased its presence in the region by establishing the Silk Road Fund (with a capital of $40 billion) and the AIIB (with a capital of $100 billion) and showing a willingness to lend without strings attached. However, Japan supported the nation-building of Central Asian countries since the 1990s after their independence from the Soviet Union (now Russia). Therefore, its approach has differed from China’s. Japan has provided economic assistance and supported healthy development in the region through Central-Asia-oriented projects such as fostering agriculture, developing businesses, and increasing employment. Central Asia is often discussed as a single entity. However, it is a collection of various countries, not a monolithic entity, and situations differ from one country to another. As exchanges between Japan and Central Asia increased, the “Central Asia + Japan” dialog was launched in 2004,*17 proposed by the then-Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi as a new government-based framework for promoting regional cooperation. This dialog focused mainly on developmental challenges facing Central Asia, such as the economy, tourism, and agriculture, with the participation of experts and practitioners from both sides, and yielded focused discussions. Most importantly, for Central Asian countries seeking to diversify their foreign policy, Japan, which had no territorial ambitions, was a promising option. As mentioned earlier, the strength of Japan’s diplomatic approach was that it differed from the military and economic approaches of Russia and China. Moreover, it heeded the local people in Central Asia. It focused on them, including the development of industries that would bring employment and the training and development of businesses to further democratization. The launch of this dialog provided a common, sustainable framework within which Japan and Central Asia could move forward and grow together and an effective understanding of Sino-Russian relations. However, the “Silk Road Diplomacy,” proposed within the framework of Eurasian diplomacy, subsequently stagnated, perhaps due in part to the death of Yutaka Akino, a member of the United Nations Monitoring Mission in Tajikistan (UNMOT).   4. The “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” Concept – Aso’s “Value-Oriented Diplomacy” in Motion In December 2005, Foreign Minister Taro Aso delivered a policy speech titled “Asian Strategy as I see it: Japan as the Thought Leader of Asia.” In his speech, Aso posed three questions about what Japan is to Asia and provided three answers. His three answers were what Japan wanted: (1) to be the Thought Leader of Asia; (2) to be a stabilizing force in Asia (stabilizer); (3) to approach other nations as partners on equal footing rather than viewing them as above it or below. Subsequently, he welcomed China’s rise and called for transparency and stated that China, South Korea, and ASEAN countries should follow a path of “Peace and Happiness through Economic Prosperity.”*18 During his global visits after becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs in October 2005, Aso felt that the Japanese people should first reaffirm and reevaluate Japan’s value in terms of its international standing and value. A New Pillar of Japanese Diplomacy There is a reason why Aso is fixated on value. When he visited India as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2005 and observed the metro system, a local Indian told Aso, “what I have learned from Japan is the value of work above all else.” This may have had no small influence on Aso’s thinking.*19 After his return from India, Aso gave considerable thought to where the value of Japanese diplomacy lies. On November 30, 2006, at Hotel Okura Tokyo, he presented his answer in a policy speech titled “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity: Japan’s Expanding Diplomatic Horizons.” At the outset of his speech, Aso said, “Today, I am going to be speaking on the topics of ‘value-oriented diplomacy’ and ‘the arc of freedom and prosperity’. Both these are new bases for our foreign policy and new expressions, but I hope that you remember these two phrases when you leave here today.” This epoch-defining diplomatic concept went beyond the conventional pillars of Japanese diplomacy, strengthening the Japan-US alliance and international cooperation. This included the UN and strengthening relations with neighboring countries such as China, South Korea, and Russia, emphasizing “universal values such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law and market economy, taking the form of an “arc of freedom and prosperity.” Figure 2: An illustration of the Arc of Freedom and Prosperity   Here, the extent of the arc’s geographic scope is notable. Beginning with the Scandinavian countries, it extended to the Baltic countries, through Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Northeast Asia through Southeast Asia, right up to Japan’s partners in Australia and New Zealand. The idea was to create a prosperous and stable region grounded in universal values—an “arc of freedom and prosperity” across this geographic area (see Figure 2). As for what “freedom” and “prosperity” mean here, Aso interpreted them by saying that all the countries scattered along the “arc” are different from one another. All these countries are trying to grow before having had the chance to become prosperous. This is prosperity. The term “freedom” refers to the freedom of movement, speech, and living one’s own life.*20 Since 2001, the United States has referred to the crescent-shaped region from the Middle East through East Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia to the Far East as the “Arc of Instability.” It has been restructuring its military forces to respond to regional conflicts. Mackinder referred to the outer circumference of Eurasia as the “arc of crisis.” Aso saw unknown possibilities in this arc and put together a concept that shared common values and linked the countries of that region together.*21 This speech was drafted by Tomohiko Taniguchi, then-Deputy Press Secretary for Foreign Affairs. It contained clear assertions and messages that draw a clear distinction from those in previous speeches given by foreign ministers.*22 To ensure the success of the “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity,” he emphasized Eurasia, particularly the Middle Eastern nations, at the epicenter of various conflicts and where democratization has lagged.*23 Notably, Aso sought to clarify the position of Japanese diplomacy toward countries committed to democratization and a market economy by combining the values of freedom, prosperity, and arc with Japan’s past efforts. However, this “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” raised the alarm among ASEAN countries because of its overemphasis on liberal values such as human rights and democracy. Abe was conscious that this concept had become known as the “Aso Doctrine,” and the term “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” would gradually disappear. Abe’s “Diplomacy that takes a panoramic view of the world map” subsequently replaced the “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity.”   5. “Diplomacy that takes a panoramic view of the world map” – Abe and the Indo-Pacific In September 2012, Abe ran for the presidency of the LDP. On December 16, 2012, he won the 46th general election for the House of Representatives, winning 294 seats. Once again in the prime minister’s chair, Abe learned from the past in naming his second Abe administration the “crisis breakthrough cabinet.” Conversely, his first cabinet in 2006 had been derided as a “cabinet of chums.” In his keynote address at the inauguration of his second administration, Abe announced, premised on the rebuilding of the Japan-US alliance, that “our diplomacy will be for us to develop a strategic diplomacy based on the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law, and we view the world as a whole as if looking at a globe.”*24 He broadly outlined a diplomatic concept that could be termed “Diplomacy that takes a panoramic view of the world map.” Notably, the pursuit of strategic diplomacy was based on the Japan-US alliance and respect for universal values such as democracy and basic human rights.*25 Its geographical scope traced an arc from Japan through the ASEAN nations, India, and the southern rim of Eurasia in a multifaceted expansion of countries cooperating with Japan. Japan’s postwar diplomacy has had a history of issues surrounding reparations. It was significant for Japan to unpick these issues, as many countries were wary of whether Japan could be trusted. To achieve this, Abe actively engaged in “summit diplomacy” with various countries and regions immediately following his administration’s inauguration. He made 81 visits to 76 countries and regions during his tenure. Abe’s “Diplomacy that takes a panoramic view of the world map” ultimately took the “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” as its prototype in a new form of value diplomacy that brought Japanese values to the fore. Nevertheless, Abe’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine and issues surrounding recognition of historical events meant that this diplomacy did not live up to expectations in Japanese relations with China and South Korea.*26 The “Indo-Pacific” Concept The “Indo-Pacific” is an important diplomatic concept in discussions of Japan’s foreign policy strategy today. This concept first made its first formal appearance in August 2007, during the first Abe administration, when Abe delivered a speech to the Indian Parliament titled “Confluence of the Two Seas.” In this speech, Abe stated the following: “The Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and prosperity. Therefore, a broader Asia that broke geographical boundaries is now beginning to take on a distinct form. Our two countries have the ability—and the responsibility—to ensure that it broadens yet further and nurture and enrich these seas to become seas of clearest transparency.”*27 He called on then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to consider the possibility of a new phase in Japan-India relations. Five years and four months later, on December 27, 2012, shortly after the inauguration of the second Abe administration, Abe published a new English-language article titled “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond” as a further development of the “Confluence of the Two Seas.” The paper, written before prime minister Abe took office, stated that “Peace, stability, and freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean are inseparable from those in the Indian Ocean” (with China’s maritime expansion in the South China sea in mind). It went on to say that the four maritime democracies—Japan, the US (Hawaii), Australia, and India—should work together to form a “diamond” of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. Abe testified in a later interview about how he came up with the “Indo-Pacific” concept: “It was during the Koizumi administration (that I focused on the Indo-Pacific). I served in the Koizumi Cabinet as Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (April 2001–September 2003) and then as Chief Cabinet Secretary (October 2005–September 2006). During this time, I witnessed the Prime Minister’s considerable difficulty in dealing with China and Korea. (omission) I believe that rather than being confined to bilateral relations, dealing with China and South Korea from a broader perspective, with a panoramic view of the world map. In the process, I became deeply interested in India.”*28 For Abe, the new concept of the Pacific and Indian Oceans as one “Indo-Pacific” resulted from his growing interest in India and developing his “Confluence of the Two Seas” concept.*29 Birth of FOIP Later, in his keynote speech at the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICADVI) in August 2016, Abe called for cooperation with Africa to “make the seas that connect the two continents into peaceful seas governed by the rule of law.” Furthermore, he said, “Japan bears the responsibility of fostering the confluence of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and Asia and Africa into a place that values freedom, the rule of law, and the market economy, free from force or coercion, and making it prosperous.” This marked the birth of the FOIP. Abe dared to say “free from force or coercion.” This can be viewed as a demonstration of Japan’s position to the world that it would not permit China to forcibly change the status quo.   6. Eurasian Diplomacy 2.0 Competition and Cooperation with China According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, FOIP can be defined as “the further expansion of the diplomatic concepts of ‘Diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map’ and ‘Proactive Contribution to Peace’. This was possible by treating the dynamism created by combining the two continents of Asia and Africa and the two oceans of the Pacific and Indian Oceans as a single comprehensive concept.” The following three pillars*30 are set out as necessary to achieve the FOIP: (1) promotion and establishment of the rule of law, freedom of navigation, free trade.; (2) pursuit of economic prosperity (improving connectivity and strengthening economic partnerships, including EPA/FTA and investment agreements); (3) commitment to peace and stability (capacity building for maritime law enforcement, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief cooperation, etc.) The FOIP is characterized by its comprehensive approach. This includes maritime security, economy, development, and connectivity, and it presents the concept of the “Indo-Pacific” rather than the “Asia-Pacific” as its scope. However, this “Indo-Pacific” concept is not unique to Japan. The United States, Australia, India, and other countries also possess this concept. Moreover, in June 2019, ASEAN announced its version of the Indo-Pacific concept (AOIP – ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific).*31 Nonetheless, behind the “Indo-Pacific” concept in Japan is the uncertainty of China’s rise in the international community and a desire to minimize any such impact, should it exist. Therefore, Japan has emphasized facing China primarily through multilateral cooperation while entrenching the framework by expanding its global partner relations based on the Japan-US alliance. However, the FOIP has another notable feature. In referring to the creation of new value through interactions between the two oceans, the Pacific and Indian Oceans, it considers both competitive and cooperative views of relations with China. In other words, in the face of various threats in the Indo-Pacific today, Japan aims to make the region free and open by ensuring a rule-based international order, incorporating the rule of law, freedom of navigation, peaceful settlement of disputes, and promotion of free trade through the FOIP. This is competition with China. However, in October 2018, Abe gave the following statement in a joint China-Japan press release issued on the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty: “The relationship between China and Japan is now moving into a new stage, from one of competition to one of cooperation. With Premier Li Keqiang, I look forward to making significant progress in the relations between our two countries. (omission) We are neighbors. We are partners in mutual cooperation and do not pose a threat to each other. I confirmed this principle with Premier Li at our recent summit meeting.” He added, “Together, we will play a constructive role working toward peace and prosperity for the international community. We are in complete agreement on this matter.”*32 This statement is made for cooperation with China. Thus, the FOIP encompasses competition and cooperation, and Abe’s comments suggest that he would rather see China as a cooperative than a competitive partner. However, Japan is committed to having China join the FOIP and working together for peace and prosperity in the region. In this sense, the value of the concept will change going forward depending on whether Japan positions China in the FOIP as a competitor or cooperator (or co-power). Therefore, Japan will likely be required to make new diplomatic choices, with FOIP as a critical approach. Thus, it will be necessary to determine the position of both sides swiftly so that the FOIP will always remain a cohesive, rather than an antagonistic, interpretation of Eurasian diplomacy.  Universality of shared values Next, I examined the current situation and realities of Japan’s Eurasian diplomacy drawing from the Diplomatic Blue Book. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an organization responsible for protecting its country and negotiating with foreign nations. To understand the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to understand Japanese diplomacy. Therefore, I analyzed its position each year from its first issue in 1957 through 2021, taking “Eurasia” as a keyword, and found the following. The word “Eurasia” has appeared 45 times to date. It was used until 1992, appearing in issues No. 26 (1982), No. 30 (1986), and No. 36 (1992), and between No. 59 (2016) and No. 62 (2019) in the phrase “stability and development are important for all in the whole of Eurasia, including Japan.” Therefore, different people may interpret the term “Eurasia” differently regarding whether it refers to Japan’s posture toward Eurasia. Table1: Changes in the number of times countries and regions appear in the Diplomatic Blue Book in key years (Created by the author) Next, an extracted terms list was compiled for each pivotal year across the 26 years from 1996, when the Hashimoto administration was first inaugurated, to 2021, and the number of times the same words appeared was tallied to see how regions of interest to Japan fluctuated over time.*33 In 1996, when the Hashimoto administration took office, Asia ranked first, followed by Europe, the US, the Pacific, and Russia. In 2006, when the “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” appeared, Africa ranked first, followed by the US, Asia, China, and Iraq. Further, in 2016, when the FOIP was raised, Asia ranked first, followed by the US, China, the Pacific, and Africa. However, from 2019, when the Abe administration ended, to 2020, when the Suga administration came to power, the US ranked first, followed by China, Pacific, Africa, and South Korea (including Asia). Incidentally, in 2021, during the Kishida administration, the United Nations ranked first, followed by India, the Pacific, the US, and China. From this table1, we can draw the following three points. First, Asia, the US, and China have been at the top of the list every year, indicating that Japan has always pursued its diplomacy with an awareness of the US, China, and Asia. Second, there is less Japanese interest in the region from central Eurasia to its Western tip. Third, there is a lack of perspective in seeing Eurasia as a totality. Therefore, Japan’s Eurasian diplomacy appears not to exist. However, is it safe to conclude that Eurasian diplomacy need not exist? Notably, the diplomatic strategy (from Hashimoto’s speech up to the FOIP) reveals that the bi-polarized East-West conflict between the US and the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the ensuing significantly increased diplomatic freedom have provided an opportunity to demonstrate the shift from a traditional passive to a proactive diplomatic approach both domestically and internationally. Nevertheless, by setting forth values in freedom, prosperity, value, and a panoramic view of the world map, Japan’s immediate neighbors and countries of Eurasia can understand Japan’s thoughts and what it hopes to accomplish in the future, although they are physically distant from Japan. Postwar Japan has learned from its bitter experiences of the past. To prevent a repetition of such horrors, Japan has bolstered its presence in the international community while maintaining and defending an international order based on universal values and the rule of law. Why is it then that Japan steadily achieves results in this process? The reasons for this can be summarized in the following two points. First, Japan has established appropriate relationships with countries that can share its values. Second, Japan has maintained minimal relations with countries that pose obstacles to these shared values. We first examine to what extent a shared perception of threats can be achieved based on these shared values between Japan and friendly countries. For example, given that perceptions of China differ from one country to another and that the future of China itself is uncertain, even a slight sense of caution toward China carries risk in that it emphasizes only negative aspects. Regarding the second point, all countries, including Japan, have their values and principles. Therefore, it is easy to envisage conflicts between these values. Mutual recognition of shared values, which forms the fundamental premise for smooth diplomatic negotiations, is essential. Thus, how should Japan’s foreign policy choices be formulated, given the unprecedented speed with which seismic shifts occur in Eurasia? A clue to this is hidden in the following three resolutions made by Prime Minister Kishida at a press conference on October 4, 2021: 1)  Determination to fully defend the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law 2)  Determination to fully safeguard the peace and stability of Japan 3)  Determination to lead the international community by confronting global-level issues and contributing to humankind Naturally, the only way to achieve these three resolutions is to increase the number of countries that share values with Japan, with the Japan-US alliance as a cornerstone, and spend time and effort building up a realistic dialog with countries with obstacles to sharing values. Consequently, it is important to arrive at the universality of shared values, which forms the basis of the international order. This is not to say that maintaining relations with major powers such as the US, China, and Russia is the sole golden rule. Instead, countries that can take the lead in creating the international order must increase the number of friendly countries to the greatest extent possible and wield diplomatic power to spread universal shared values from multiple angles. “Diplomatic power” here does not merely refer to traditional political, military, and economic power. To find a solution to this difficult problem, we must now consider the pillars that form the foundation of this diplomatic power, following the times and the situation. Search for a New Horizon in Japanese Diplomacy The ability to conduct multilateral diplomacy with many countries can be a significant advantage when considering Japanese diplomacy today. For example, the latest ranking (January 2012) of the Henley Passport Index (by the British consulting firm Henley & Partners) compares global passports based on the number of countries and regions that can be traveled to without visas; Japan again took the top spot this year. Currently, Japanese passport holders can travel to 192 countries and regions.*34 Japan has a strong international reputation for reliability and should exploit its rare geographic advantages. Japan has steadily built up its diplomatic achievements by using its ability to develop its relations with each country, the US, China and Russia, without damaging relations with the other powers. In other words, Japan has the potential and is in the best position to become a bridge between the three. As Figure 3 shows, one option for Japan going forward and the one that should be examined and selected is to search for a new horizon for Japanese diplomacy, called “Eurasian diplomacy,” and add this to the “Eurasia” perspective present in the FOIP. Unlike the FOIP, Eurasian diplomacy is a diplomatic concept viewed solely in terms of its geographic scope and covers many countries and regions with different languages and cultures. Therefore, choosing Eurasian diplomacy and taking the first steps forward will require more effort than in the past. Moreover, the region is one in which various countries’ interests intertwine, and Japan must make the corresponding commitments and preparations. If the question is asked as to whether Japan cannot (or does not need to) develop Eurasian diplomacy, then the answer is “no.” Figure 3: Positioning of “Eurasian Diplomacy 2.0”   The basis of the postwar Japan-US relationship has been shared fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. Since the Rambouillet Summit in 1975, Japan, as a member of the liberal democracies, has made steady, albeit step-by-step, progress contributing to the formation of a stable international order. However, we are aware of the difficulties in sharing these democratic values. China, Japan’s neighbor, has dramatically different standards, even for universal values such as freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China. The Kishida administration has inherited the vision of the FOIP. It will continue to engage in intense diplomatic negotiations with major powers such as the US, Russia, and China. In this context, it should be reaffirmed that many countries and regions in Eurasia can help and support Japan. This determines Japan’s future diplomatic choices. Therefore, the future development of Kishida’s diplomacy should be watched closely.   Conclusion The most important issue addressed in this book is the scarcity of books and articles focusing squarely and comprehensively on Japan’s Eurasian diplomacy. Japan’s postwar diplomacy played out as a mixture of glory and setbacks. Eurasia, in particular, is a vast continent in which polities, economies, and cultures are concentrated, while each country and region have their contradictions and conflicts. In this sense, Eurasia’s position in the international community makes it an extremely attractive continent for which it is difficult to formulate a strategy. Nonetheless, while Japan’s positioning of Eurasia can be concluded from its efforts toward each country and region and individual specific results, there appears to be a lack of a Japanese perspective taking an overall view on Eurasian diplomacy. Further, when discussing the ideal direction for Japanese diplomacy in the future, the Japan-US alliance is always in question. As the international strategic environment surrounding Japan undergoes dramatic shifts, Japanese diplomacy requires a balanced international perspective and the ability to make calm and objective judgments. Diplomacy is not the sole responsibility of the government; it also depends on the understanding and support of individual citizens regarding the complexity of international affairs and the course that Japan should take. In envisioning the next phase of Japanese diplomacy, we should pursue an earnest diplomatic strategy to expand Japan’s circle of friends, regardless of whether they share our values, while continuing to pursue global interests beyond Japan’s self-interest.     Notes *1 See “Prime Minister Hashimoto’s Speech at the Keizai Doyukai (Members’ Roundtable Meeting)” (July 24, 1997), Diplomatic Blue Book 1998, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1998, p. 209. *2 In November 2018, the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” was changed to the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision.” *3 In principle, the Diplomatic Blue Book summarizes changes in international affairs and Japan’s diplomatic activities during the year through December of its publication and has been published annually since its first issue in 1957. While other government agencies publish white papers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is unique in publishing a “Blue Book,” following the British Parliament’s Blue Book. The report summarizes the Japanese government’s foreign policy and recent international developments, allowing the reader to understand which areas and fields Japan’s diplomacy has (or has not) focused on each year. *4 In 2009, JFIR published a policy proposal titled “Positive Pacifism and the Future of the Japan-US Alliance.” ( Incidentally, at that time, Kenichi Ito took the position of “negative pacifism” after the war, in which Japan used the US as much as possible but minimized the extent to which the US used Japan, thereby minimizing costs and risks for Japan. However, after the Cold War, with the “war on terror” taking root in global security issues, he stressed the need for “positive pacifism” to play an appropriate role. *5 Notably, this book does not delve deeply into the history of Japanese diplomacy. This is because over 70 years have passed since the end of the Second World War; in addition to the history of discussions in the Diet, the number of papers documenting Japanese diplomacy has also expanded enormously, making it difficult to cover everything in a finite number of pages. *6 See Yūrashia taidō (Norio Horie, Iwanami Shinsho, 2010), pp. 26-30 [in Japanese] *7 In addition to “land routes” and “sea routes,” in recent years, China has been expanding its influence in the digital sector through the Belt and Road initiative. This point is discussed in dejitarushirukurōdo jōhō tsūshin no chiseigaku [Digital Silk Road: Geopolitics of Information and Communications] (Dai Mochinaga, Nihon Keizai Shinbun Publishing, 2022), pp. 66-128. [in Japanese] *8 See Hashimoto ryūtarō gaikō kaiko-roku [Hashimoto Ryutaro’s Diplomatic Memoirs], (edited by Makoto Iokibe and Taizo Miyagi, Iwanami Shoten, 2013), pp. 61-63. [in Japanese] *9 See Hashimoto ryūtarō gaikō kaiko-roku, ibid., pp. 64-73. *10 For a complete overview of the diplomatic world in the Northern Territories negotiations, see Hoppōryōdo kōshō-shi [A History of the Northern Territories Negotiations] (Yoshikatsu Suzuki, Chikuma Shinsho, 2021). [in Japanese] *11 See Hashimoto ryūtarō gaikō kaiko-roku, ibid., pp. 80-82. *12 See the Cabinet Office website ( *13 Kazuhiko Togo points out the following: “The essence of Hashimoto’s Eurasian diplomacy can be summed up in this one point: utilize Russia to empower Japan, caught between the US and China, and bring Russia into the new dynamics of the Asia-Pacific in a manner favorable to Japan. This process will also resolve the Northern Territories issue, which has been the biggest challenge for Japanese diplomacy to date.” See Nihon no 「yūrashia gaikō」 (1997 〜 2001) [Japan’s Eurasian Diplomacy (1997-2001)] (Kazuhiko Togo,, 2014)( *14 See the 1998 Diplomatic Blue Book, p. 210. *15 See the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website ( *16 Although Central Asia is said to be a site of power struggles among the major powers, Tomohiko Uyama notes that the domestic political, security, and other conditions in each country are basically stable; they have not been seriously affected by the turmoil in neighboring Afghanistan. chūōajia “kokusai tero” to “gurētogēmu” no kyojitsu [Central Asian “International Terrorism” and the Blending of Fact and Fiction surrounding the “Great Game”], Diplomacy (Vol. 69, 2021) [in Japanese] *17 As a side note, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Global Forum co-hosted the 7th Tokyo Forum and Central Asia Symposium, as well as the 10th Tokyo Forum. Among other things, the latter creates Central Asian culinary videos in a form not restricted by politics, economics and other factors. Available from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website ( *18 See the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website ( *19 See totetsumonai Nippon [Extraordinary Japan] [ (Taro Aso, Shinchosha Shinsho, 2007), pp. 9-15. *20 “Speech by Foreign Minister Aso at the JFIR’s 20th Anniversary Event” (March 12, 2007, The International House of Japan) *21 Aso loudly rebuked the terms “arc of crisis” and “arc of instability” used in reference to a particular region as a crisis produced by Western actions and sought a path of coexistence and co-prosperity. See totetsumonai Nippon, pp. 160-165. *22 See Nihon no senryaku gaiko [Japanese Strategic Diplomacy] (Yoshikazu Suzuki, Chikuma Shinsho, 2017), pp. 84-98. [in Japanese] *23 According to Suzuki, the “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” and “Diplomacy of panoramic views” started out as a strategic theory targeting Russia but later shifted its strategic focus away from Russia to China in response to China’s accelerating moves toward maritime expansion. See Suzuki, ibid, pp. 83-84. *24 See “Abe’s Diplomacy from a Global Perspective – Interview with Shotaro Yachi, Cabinet Secretariat Counselor (1)” ( *25 See the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website ( *26 For more information on the wavering Japan-China relations following Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine, see gaikō anzen hoshō senryaku-sei no tsuikyū [Diplomacy and Security: The Pursuit of Strategy] (Ken Jimbo), Kenshō Abe seiken hoshu to riarizumu no seiji [An examination of conservatism under the Abe administration and the politics of realism] (Asia Pacific Initiative, Bunshun Shinsho, 2022), pp. 171-176. *27 See the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website ( *28 See gaikō [Diplomacy] (Diplomacy, Editorial Committee, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vol. 65, 2021), p. 95. *29 See dare mo kakanakatta abe shinzō [What Nobody Wrote About Shinzo Abe] (Tomohiko Taniguchi, Asuka Shinsha, 2020), pp. 222-228. *30 See the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website ( *31 The ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, (June 23, 2019), ( Moreover, there are differences in the vision held by the US, Australia, India, ASEAN etc., but I will not address these here. *32 See the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website ( *33 Terms such as “Japan” and regions within Japan are omitted from this tabulation. *34 The Henley Passport Index, 2022 ( (This is the English translation of an article written by TAKAHATA Yohei, Distinguished Research Fellow/ Director of Strategy and Policy, The Japan Forum on International Relations, which originally appeared on Japan’s Diplomacy in Eurasian Dynamism, Chuokoron-Shinsha, 2022.) p{text-align:justify}


June 15,2022

Learn from the Determination of the Ukrainians

I’m on the blacklist too Some readers might have noticed that my name was included in the Russian blacklist banning 63 Japanese citizens from entering the country. Nothing would make me happier as an opinion leader if my criticism of Russia, as in my contribution to this column titled “Protect the Rules-based Order against Russian Aggression” on March 3, has caught Moscow’s eye. I am renewing my determination to speak courageously and not be afraid of anything. Speaking of determination, this war has revealed the importance of determination in security matters. On May 9, coinciding with the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a video in which he said, “The road […] is difficult, but we have no doubt that we will win” and “we will not give anyone a single piece of our land.” Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, was unable to present any concrete war results to the public in his speech at the celebrations. His speech suggested that Russia was focusing on the conquest of the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, but according to a senior Pentagon official, Russian troops were recently seeing “very little progress” in the area due to resistance from the Ukrainian military. Little Ukraine fighting impressively and giant Russia struggling: At the moment, we seem to accept this description as a matter of course. In recent times, there have even been speculations that Ukraine is about to go on the offensive and may even be considering retaking Crimea. Yet we should not forget that the mood around the world was quite different when this war started. Many thought that the capital Kyiv would only last a few days, with the United States and Europe even discussing how to support a government-in-exile outside Ukraine. At the start of the war, President Putin must have thought that if the great power Russia struck hard, the Ukrainians would immediately surrender for fear of their lives, the comedian-turned-president Zelenskyy fleeing in terror. Chinese President Xi Jinping was likely of the same opinion. It is easy to find fault with this, but the truth is that we had no doubts of this prospect either. Fighting of their own volition The international community is in a state of anarchy, lacking a central government. Within a country, the expectation is that any unjustified “change of the status quo by force” by a strong actor will be undone by the government. But that is not the case in the international community. A status quo changed forcefully by a strong state is often accepted by the international community, especially when the use of force is limited and human casualties are low. In the case of Ukraine, the Crimean situation before the war was close to that. In this war, if the Ukrainians had surrendered to Russia to prioritize the saving of lives over independence, a puppet government would have been established and the new situation would have been de facto accepted by the rest of the world, albeit reluctantly. What prevented this from happening was the determination of the Ukrainian people to defend their country. In Japan, there were those who said that President Zelenskyy should give up on resisting in order to reduce civilian casualties, flee the country, and try to make a comeback at a later time. But this call is decisively mistaken because it fails to take into account the fact that the Ukrainians are fighting of their own volition. From a Russian perspective, this war is “Putin’s war.” The Russians did not want this war. They are being made to contribute to a war that was initiated on Putin’s orders. The question posed to the Japanese people By contrast, the Ukrainians are not fighting “Zelenskyy’s War.” They rose up of their own volition to defend “the aggregation of various institutions, customs, values, and ideals that make Ukraine Ukraine and that make Ukrainians Ukrainians.” They believe that “to surrender is tantamount to becoming Russians” (Andrey Kurkov, one of Ukraine’s most renowned authors) and are determined to risk even their lives in opposition to that. It is only because of the strength of their determination that Ukraine remains steadfast in its resistance against the aggression of the great power Russia. Being in an international community that lacks a central government, one must ultimately defend oneself with one’s own hands. Seeing the determination of the Ukrainians to do so, many countries around the world, including the United States, European countries, and Japan, are also strengthening their resolve to support Ukraine even if it means confronting Russia. To protect oneself with one’s own hands in the state of anarchy, one needs the power required to do so. Yet what should not be overlooked is that, along with that power, it is also necessary to possess the determination to stand up to aggression. Witnessing the ongoing situation in Ukraine, it appears that the security awareness of the Japanese people is rapidly becoming more realistic. It is favorable that there is a growing momentum for discussions about building defense capabilities without taboos. Yet another question posed to the Japanese is whether we have the determination to defend our country. It is not simply a matter of making brave statements. The Japanese ought to look at the behavior of the Ukrainians right now and think long and hard about what determination to defend one’s country really means. (This is the English translation of an article written by KAMIYA Matake, Vice President, the Japan Forum on International Relations / Professor, National Defense Academy of Japan. The article was first published on the “Seiron” Column in Sankei Shimbun on May 16, 2022. It was also reprinted on the JFIR Website on the same date.) p{text-align:justify}


June 14,2022

Protect the Rules-Based Order against Russian Aggression

Witness to a war of aggression   We are now witnessing a Russian war of aggression for which there is no excuse. If the international community tacitly approves of this kind of action by a major power against a smaller nation through silence, this will damage the very foundation of the rules-based international order that has served as the basis of global peace for the past several decades.   If this were to happen, the world runs the risk of returning to a situation akin to the 19th-century style power struggles in which power is the only tool available to counter that of other countries and protect one’s own country. We need to recognize how undesirable this would be and must confront Russia’s outrageous action in order to preserve the rules-based international order.   What is the international order that is based upon rules? The international community lacks a central government. Under these circumstances, a powerful actor could do almost anything they want, especially to a weaker actor. Within a country, even powerful individuals and groups are not allowed to engage in actions that violate laws and rules. This is because governments and government agencies such as the police, the military, the courts, and others would restrain and punish such actors in accordance with the law.   However, the international community does not have such enforcement mechanisms in place. This is why international law has little coercive force, allowing powerful actors to remain unchallenged when they violate rules.   In the post-war era, this situation has been greatly mitigated under the international order that was created and maintained primarily by the liberal democracies of the world (including Japan), with the United States at its helm. This constitutes the rules-based international order.   Under this order, major powers including the United States, which is the most powerful country in the world, as well as smaller powers have in principle respected international rules, and refrained from taking actions that depend upon force. Naturally, there has not been a complete absence of tyranny by the major powers. However, taking the United States as an example, even in the period during which its power overwhelmed that of all other countries, the United States endeavored to act in ways that were, relatively speaking, in accordance with international laws and rules. As a result, this order enabled us to remain relatively oblivious to the fact that the international community is an arena of power struggles where military might ultimately have the final say. Tyranny by force must not be allowed   However, Russia’s recent actions are based on the belief that powerful countries are free to disregard international rules and do whatever they want. If we allow such behavior to continue, the only option to counter tyranny would be to use force, reverting the world to a time of confrontation based on military power. As a result, countries around the world would be forced to strengthen their militaries. Japan would be no exception if this occurred.   Since the invasion of Ukraine began, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated that Russia is the world’s most powerful nuclear power, and on February 27, he put the country’s nuclear forces on “special alert.” Thus, there is concern that he is considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons in order to end the war in Ukraine.   If this occurs, it would signal the end of the era of non-use of nuclear weapons that has been in place for 77 years since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The world would realize that nuclear weapons could be used. In such a situation, the number of countries which would pursue obtaining nukes might increase. Once this transpires, it would be uncertain whether Japan could remain the exception to the rule. China shares the same idea as Russia   If we do not wish to witness the emergence of such a world, the international community, including Japan, must be prepared to resolutely protect the rules-based international order against Russian aggression. In this sense, the exclusion of Russia from the international payment network known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) was the right decision; as such, it was only natural that Japan immediately announced that it would participate in this sanction. Although some are concerned that this would have a negative effect on the global economy, this is no time to be worried about such things.   It is of concern that China, the number two major power in the world, has not criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine. China, which values cooperation with Russia in the face of the confrontation with the United States, has not wavered in its pro-Russian stance despite the situation in Ukraine. According to reports, President Xi Jinping has expressed support for Russia in the face of global economic sanctions. On February 24, immediately after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Consul General of the P.R.C. in Osaka Xue Jian posted a tweet under the title “A major lesson that should be learned from the Ukrainian problem” in which he stated, “the weak should absolutely never be stupid enough to pick fights with the strong!” The idea that weak nations should “absolutely never” defy powerful nations is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the rules-based international order.   The danger that we may revert to a situation in which international politics is reduced to power struggles and international rules are rendered meaningless is not a problem that Japan is insulated from. If we believe that such a world is undesirable, we must be willing to acknowledge the criticality of the present moment. (This is the English translation of an article written by KAMIYA Matake, Vice President, the Japan Forum on International Relations / Professor, National Defense Academy of Japan. The article was first published on the “Seiron” Column in Sankei Shimbun on March 3, 2022. It was also reprinted on the JFIR Website on the same date.) p{text-align:justify}


April 20,2022

Russian Actions in Ukraine

There are some who insist that the reason Russia annexed Crimea was either because of “NATO’s eastward expansion, which made it necessary for Russia to act to defend its sphere of influence,” or that “the responsibility lies with the international community, which has not determined which basic principle takes precedence, that of national self-determination or that of non-intervention in another country’s domestic affairs.” I, however, believe that both of these explanations are exercises in sophistry, and that the essential significance of “Russian actions in Ukraine” lies elsewhere. NATO’s eastward expansion was not of its own volition, but rather, it happened on the request of the central and eastern European nations that had suffered under Russian oppression in the past. Romania’s former defense minister Ioan Pașcu—who worked to get Romania NATO membership—once confided in me his relief over getting it thus: “With this, Romania has, for the first time in its history, attained true security.” The issue of which countries the central and eastern European nations will ally themselves with is their sovereign decision and not something that Russia should dictate. While the issue of whether national self-determination or non-interference in another country’s domestic affairs takes priority is indeed something that remains unresolved in international law and, thus, is a source of instability in international politics, it can by no means be used by Russia to justify its actions in this case. This is because the essential significance of “Russian actions in Ukraine” does not lie in this area. Thus, what needs to be addressed now is what the essential significance of “Russian actions in Ukraine” is. This is fundamentally connected to “Russian actions in Georgia” in August 2008. Russia, having faced no sanctions by the international community for its actions in Georgia and, essentially, achieving territorial expansion as a result, has acquired a taste for such behavior, doing largely the same thing in Crimea. This view is the one that best demonstrates the essence of Russian actions. I believe that “governance by force” has been at the core of the Russian state from its imperial days through the era of the Soviet Union. Thus, I have since long sensed the Putin government’s dangerous tendency to revert to this ideology. I visited Russia in August 2000, shortly after Putin became President, and in the report I wrote after returning to Japan (published in the December edition of the magazine Shokun!), I predicted the following: “President Putin will spend the next ten or twenty years leading the construction of a regenerated Russia and will thus occupy a place in Russian history as an ‘architect’ comparable to Peter the Great and Stalin.” This prediction later proved to be accurate. The basis for my prediction was my judgment that Putin was establishing his authority based on “violence,” and that this was in accordance with the system of “Rikichi (rule by violence) ” that is part of Russia’s traditional political culture. Let me explain what I mean by “Rikichi” here. Those practicing “Rikichi” were, at the time, commonly known as “machine.” Later, it became a system of authority linked to the KGB (Russian secret police) and came to be known as silovik (the faction of force). Before long, they arrested the businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who represented the anti-Putin forces in the business world, and disbanded the oil company Yukos, which symbolized the oil and gas interests at the time. Indeed, “Rikichi” by the secret police, who wielded unlimited and absolute power, has been the traditional internal structure of Russia, with origins in the Oprichnina policy of Ivan the Terrible and later leading to Stalin’s Great Purge. The Putin administration inherited this and projected it outward, thus making it the “genetic makeup” of Russian foreign policy. This was, and continues to be, my theory on Russia. Recent Russian actions include sending members of the Russian army to Crimea in disguise (as members of a militia) and claiming that the results of a referendum on whether Russia should annex Crimea “reflected the will of the people,” based on which Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea. This was a typical “Rikichi” action, while at the same time, it was a highly conspiratorial act based on a meticulously prepared strategic plan. The Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were seized in the same manner. This is reminiscent of the Manchurian Incident, in which the Imperial Japanese Army itself blew up the Manchurian Railway line and then blamed it on China, subsequently moving to establish control over the entirety of Manchuria. The 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia were similar actions. This indeed is where we need to look for the essential significance of “Russian actions in Ukraine.” What, then, is the new problem currently facing the international community? We could express it as follows: How should we deal with “rogue states” that threaten post-Cold War security when they are major powers such as Russia? Our handling of such states needs to proceed with an abundance of caution, but fortunately, we have our successful experience of the Cold War. Did Russia—a state ruled by violence—learn nothing from its defeat in the Cold War? The international community maintained as its basic stance, throughout the Cold War, the idea that “the use of violence to change the status quo is unacceptable.” If we are to take the “Putin doctrine” announced at the annexation of Crimea on March 18 as an expression of his actual thoughts, then the international community needs to prepare itself to respond with an understanding of the essential significance of “Russian actions in Ukraine.” (This essay is the English translation of a Japanese-language essay dated June 18, 2014 in which ITO Kenichi analyzed Russia. It has been published in memoriam of the author, former president of the Japan Forum on International Relations, who passed away on March 14, 2022.) p{text-align:justify; text-indent:2em}

ITO Kenichi

February 16,2022

The importance of the G7 and Japan’s role in a multipolar era

  Nearly half a century has passed since the inaugural Group of Seven (G7) Summit took place at the Château de Rambouillet on the outskirts of Paris. On the inaugural agenda of the Summit, which traces its origins to a 1973 meeting between the finance ministers of the US, West Germany, France, and the UK, was the response to the economic crisis in the US. However, the Summit’s role and significance have changed over the last fifty years, as the international community has become more polarized and complex. The year 2008 saw the emergence of a multilateral framework called the G20, while the G7 would go on to become highly institutionalized. With the dynamics of a world led by Japan, the US, and Europe undergoing a significant transformation in recent years due to the rise of emerging nations such as China and India, the questions of how to define international rules and how to form a new international order have naturally come to the forefront.     Looking at the events of the past several years, one can sense the nascent development of a configuration among the current G7 members that might rightly be called “the G7 vs. China.” Of course, the G7 does display some degree of a cooperative stance with China in spheres where the interests of the two nations overlap, but it is nevertheless the case, that at last year’s Summit, the US President Joe Biden framed US–China relations in antagonistic terms, and the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to expand the camp of democracies under the “D11” banner. In addition, last year’s Leaders’ Statement arguably made this configuration all the more clear, not least by explicitly mentioning Taiwan for the first time. The G7 also expanded their foreign ministers’ meeting in the UK in December to include foreign ministers from the ASEAN region, a decision that was likely to have been taken with China in mind. Conversely, depending on how one looks at these events, they may send the message that the G7 cannot stand up to China unless it bands together; hence, caution must be exercised. This is especially true, since the stance toward China among the G7 countries are varied, with Japan, the US, and the UK sharing a strong sense of crisis that contrasts with the more cautious approach taken by Germany and France, which have deep economic ties with China.     Within this context, what is the role expected of Japan in the G7? Japan has been a member since the inaugural summit as a leader of liberal democracies, working towards the formation of a stable international order. Amid circumstances that see the G7 uniting in an anti-China context, would it not be best for Japan to sharpen its ability to coordinate with other countries and adopt more imaginative diplomatic policies that focus on global interests going beyond its own? What is important here, first and foremost, is to spread an accurate perception of Asia. While China is currently expanding both militarily and economically, each country differs in how it perceives China. This is due to differences in physical distance, cultural distance, or the strength of the country’s political and economic ties with China. In addition to being the only Asian member of the G7, Japan is also China’s neighbor. In that sense, the G7 still has great expectations of Japan as its window into Asia. Japan should meet these expectations by disseminating an accurate perception of Asia, and making the most of its uncommonly deft negotiation skills to settle disputes among the G7 members. It is also imperative that Japan actively develops policies from a wider perspective, encompassing Asia and the Indian Ocean.     In light of this, JFIR launched a study group called “Strengthening Japan’s Overall Diplomatic Capability: Possibility of Japan as a ‘Hybrid Power’” in 2020. This study group, in which I serve as the Vice-Chair, uses both quantitative and non-quantitative international indices as a basis for discussions to explore the kinds of “hybrid power” Japan could exercise to strengthen its national brand. We conduct research using the global think tank network we have at our disposal in the hope of supporting Japanese diplomacy from a Track II perspective. Aside from devoting all our efforts to what we can do, we would now like to focus on future developments in Kishida Diplomacy.   (This is the English translation of an article written by WATANABE Mayu, President, the Japan Forum on International Relations, which originally appeared on the e-forum “Hyakka-Seiho (Hundred Flowers in Full Bloom)” of JFIR on December 20, 2021.) p{text-align:justify}


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About JFIR

The Japan Forum on International Relations(JFIR) is a private, non-profit, independent, and non-partisan organization, which was established for the purpose of encouraging its members and the public at large to study, discuss, exchange and propose ideas on foreign policies and international affairs, thereby enlightening the public in and out of Japan. In doing so, however, JFIR as an institution neither takes nor rejects any specific political

positions on these matters. Though JFIR issues from time to time specific policy recommendations on important matters of the day, the responsibility for the contents of the recommendations concerned lies solely with those who sign them. JFIR was founded on March 12, 1987 in Tokyo and was reincorporated on April 1, 2011 as a “public interest foundation” with the authorization granted by the Prime Minister of Japan in recognition of its achievements.