|Floyd Ciruli & Hiroyuki Akita|
Recent visits with leading Japanese foreign policy experts confirm the new direction. Tauneo Watanabe, senior research fellow of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, and Hiroyuki Akita, foreign affairs and security columnist for the Nikkei: Shimbun recognize the challenges that the Abe government is addressing.
|Tauneo Watanabe & Floyd Ciruli|
Japan’s pacifist constitution (war making is prohibited), which has broad public support, will likely remain the dominant foreign policy boundary, but Japanese realists are increasingly redefining it to address the new conditions in the Pacific. Abe’s strategy is to use soft power to build multilateral alliances dedicated to economic benefits with selective, if limited, military applications. So, for example, Abe has picked up the TPP trade agreement discarded by the Trump administration and reconfigured it. He recognizes the U.S. must be a part of the trade and defense strategies and has encouraged the U.S. to rejoin the revised TPP and Japan is taking part with the U.S. and South Asian nations in military exercises. He and his foreign policy team are also looking farther afield for allies, including in Europe, for example Germany, and in the Mideast.
Fortunately for Abe’s timing, Japanese soft power in the Pacific Rim is high. A couple of recent polls show Japan’s reputation exceeds China’s and the U.S.’s in a number of Asian and South Asian Rim countries. It reflects many years of work on soft power with economic development, cultural exchanges and tourism promotion.
A Pew Research survey of last November shows confidence in Abe and positive reviews of Japan in the Philippines, Australia, U.S. and Indonesia. Only South Koreans are negative.
A survey commissioned by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in ASEAN member states in February 2018 (3,000 interviews in 10 countries).
Japan’s leadership sees defense of a rule-based international system and the self-confidence of democratic counties as an important national objective and a responsibility it shares with the U.S. and other allies.