Japanese foreign minister Hayashi Yoshimasa (second from right, in grey suit) walks with G7 countries foreign ministers during their summit in Weissenhaeuser Strand, Germany, 12 May 2022. (Marcus Brandt/Pool via Reuters)

It's hard to be neighbours: When will Japan advance its diplomacy with China and South Korea?

Japanese academic Shin Kawashima notes that Japan has been active on the international front, engaging the West as well as the Southeast Asian nations. However, it seems that with an eye to public sentiment, it is maintaining a cautious approach towards China and South Korea. When will it be opportune for Japan to advance to the next stage of foreign policy engagement?
Pedestrians walk past a screen displaying Russian President Vladimir Putin during a news broadcast about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Akihabara district of Tokyo on 4 May 2022. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP)

Japanese academic: Japan views China and Russia as one entity because of Russia-Ukraine war

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been reiterating lately that “unilateral changes to the status quo by force are absolutely unacceptable". Japanese academic Shin Kawashima points out that this stems from Japanese fears that if the global order is not maintained, Japan will face a security crisis, particularly in the East China Sea. Furthermore, in dealing with this perceived threat from China, Japan has come to view China and Russia as one entity. But is this a wise long-term policy?
Pedestrians walk in front of an electronic quotation board displaying share prices of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo, Japan, on 6 January 2022. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP)

Can a sliding Japanese yen survive the Fed's interest rate hike?

The Japanese yen has been on a prolonged decline and is unlikely to see an upside given the Japanese central bank’s persistence with its ultra-loose monetary policy. As a result, Japan’s trade balance is worsening and the Japanese people are feeling the crunch as energy and consumer goods prices soar. Chinese academic Zang Shijun believes that the Japanese currency will face even more pressure of rapid depreciation as the US Federal Reserve raises interest rates.
A group of naval vessels from China and Russia sails during joint military drills in the Sea of Japan, in this still image taken from video released on 18 October 2021. Video released 18 October 2021. (Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via Reuters)

Would cross-strait reunification threaten Japan's maritime oil routes?

Researcher Chen Hongbin says that Japan's reason for opposing cross-strait reunification, that China could sever Japanese maritime oil routes by firing from eastern Taiwan, is unfounded. China already has the capability to attack Japan's oil tankers anyway, even without reunification; but most importantly, any maritime security issue in the vicinity would pose a greater threat to China.
South Korea's president-elect Yoon Seok-youl speaks during a news conference at his transition team office, in Seoul, South Korea, 20 March 2022. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool via Reuters)

South Korea’s new president needs to avoid predecessor’s mistakes and reframe foreign policy priorities

South Korean academic Kang Jun-young notes that the incoming Yoon Seok-youl administration in South Korea will have to rectify several diplomatic missteps of the previous administration, including by restoring ties with Japan and adjusting its policies towards China and the US, while dealing with the nuclear issue with North Korea. Will Yoon’s administration be able to juggle all this while maintaining its national dignity and not giving in to external pressure?
People wearing face masks walk at Shibuya district in Tokyo, Japan, on 19 January 2022. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP)

What explains Southeast Asia’s trust in Japan?

Japan has consistently come up tops in a local research institute’s survey question on trust among ASEAN’s major dialogue partners. This is despite the history of Japan’s relations with countries in the region. But will the status quo remain unchanged? As Japan and ASEAN gear up to mark 50 years of friendship and cooperation next year, how will Japan work to maintain a strong relationship with the region amid growing US-China tensions?
A vendor pushes a bicycle loaded with brushes and brooms for sale along a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 10 February 2022. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

How will Cambodia manage the ASEAN chairmanship and China relations?

Though small, Cambodia is a state with agency, says Cambodian researcher Chheang Vannarith. The country has shown that it can stand up for what it believes in at key moments, such as when it decided to co-sponsor the UNGA resolution demanding Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine. As ASEAN chair for 2022, it seeks to bridge differences, and even if it has the image of being dominated by close friend China, this does not mean that it will do its every bidding.
Japanese Macaques, also known as Snow Monkeys, gather to soak in a hot spring at Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan, 14 January 2022, in this photo taken by Kyodo. (Kyodo via Reuters)

More than a bath: From hot springs in ancient China to onsens in Japan

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai recalls relaxing jaunts to the hot springs of Taiwan’s Beitou District and later Hokkaido. He muses that the hot spring’s power to rejuvenate and heal were appreciated and documented by Chinese ancients long before it was thought to be a Japanese domain.
A Ukrainian serviceman stands at a check point in the vilage of Velyka Dymerka east of Kyiv, on 9 March 2022. (Aris Messinis/AFP)

Why ASEAN must stand firm against Russia's invasion of Ukraine

At the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly, 141 out of 193 countries voted in favour of condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including eight ASEAN countries. In the main, this demonstrates ASEAN member countries' belief in international law and the principles of upholding sovereignty and territorial integrity. As for China, its support for Russia seems to go against its own concerns of separatist movements in Xinjiang and the Taiwan issue. It is clear that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not "someone else's affair". If the delicate East Asian order is to be preserved, ASEAN and East Asian countries need to be firm in their stand against Russia.