Japan-US relations

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida walks on stage during the state funeral for Japan's former prime minister Shinzo Abe in the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan, on 27 September 2022. (Franck Robichon/Pool/AFP)

Kishida's political agenda in granting state funeral to Abe

Some Japanese believe that despite being the longest-serving Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe is not deserving of a state funeral considering his shortfall in political contribution. Others believe that incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has a political agenda behind the decision, including uniting the Liberal Democratic Party. Academic Toh Lam Seng examines Kishida's considerations and what it shows about the current and future Japanese political environment.
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (centre) attends the opening ceremony of an extraordinary session of the Diet, the country's parliament, at the National Diet building in Tokyo on 3 August 2022. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP)

The delicate balance of Japan-China relations and Japan-Taiwan relations

As the situation in the Taiwan Strait develops, Japan needs to navigate relations with mainland China and Taiwan, while also keeping in mind the role of the US as well as its own interests. Japanese academic Sahashi Ryo examines Japan's options and how it will acquit itself. He notes that Japan is now firmly in an age where the Japan-China and Japan-US relationships must always be considered together.
People walk down a street in the entertainment area of Shimbashi in Tokyo on 5 September 2022. (Richard A. Brooks/AFP)

In search of better relations with Japan? China’s inscrutable Japan policy

Japanese academic Shin Kawashima wonders if a recent Japan-China press conference signals China's willingness to engage Japan amid heightened tensions after Chinese missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Even if this is so and the Kishida administration is keen to emphasise relations with China, it will not be an easy task to answer China's call.
A mourner pays respects to late former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot while campaigning for a parliamentary election, in Taipei, Taiwan, 11 July 2022. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

21st century strategist: Shinzo Abe left an indelible mark on geopolitics in Asia-Pacific

Political commentator William He observes that the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was a statesman who influenced US foreign policy and a key player in making “the Indo-Pacific strategy” and “the Quad” the lexicon of recent times. He was also an active defender of stability in the Taiwan Strait. All said, he might have been a controversial figure, but the legacy he leaves behind is a tangible record that history can be the judge of.
US President Joe Biden and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a joint news conference after their bilateral meeting at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, 23 May 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The US is winning at building relationships with China's neighbours

Academic Zhu Ying notes that the war in Ukraine has brought the US, Japan and South Korea closer together on issues such as Taiwan and the nuclear threat from North Korea, thus strengthening the US’s strategy of working with alliances. In exchange for the US’s support in forms such as a nuclear umbrella, Japan and South Korea will align with the US in its competition with China.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo shows Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida a souvenir following their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, Indonesia, 29 April 2022. (Muchlis Jr./Indonesia's Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters)

Kishida’s charm diplomacy in Southeast Asia: Moral suasion does the trick

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visits to Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand have burnished Japan’s regional credentials, particularly on contentious issues such as the war in Ukraine, the South China Sea disputes and the evolving order in the Indo-Pacific.
Staff members work near the emblem for Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics displayed at the Shanghai Sports Museum in Shanghai, China, 8 December 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Why Japan did not impose a 'diplomatic boycott' of the Beijing Winter Olympics

Last month, Japan announced that no ministers would be attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, but did not term it a "diplomatic boycott". Nonetheless, Japan has made it clear that it believes in universal values like human rights and the rule of law. Japanese academic Shin Kawashima notes that Japan has taken an independent decision that shows its stand while not explicitly straining Japan-China relations.
A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Northern Army Type-90 tank participates in a live tank firing competition at the Hokkaido Great Maneuvering Ground in Eniwa, Hokkaido prefecture on 7 December 2021. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP)

Japan's increased funding for US forces in Japan: A true alliance in the making?

Japan recently agreed to increase its five-year budget for hosting US troops in Japan to 1.05 trillion yen, but this is not the usual "sympathy budget" the Japanese set aside for this purpose. This time round, it has made sure that a greater proportion of the funding will go towards enhancing its Self-Defence Forces and overall Japan-US security cooperation.
A pedestrian walks on a street near Hamamatsu station in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, on 6 October 2021. (Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg)

Is the ‘rise of China’ to blame for shifting China-Japan relations?

It is easy to see persistent Japan-China tensions as an effect of the rise of China and a tilt in the balance of strength between both countries. But Toh Lam Seng reminds us that from the time of the Meiji Restoration of 1868 onwards, Japan had been coveting mainland China and the Korean Peninsula, and thus Japan and China were never on amicable terms. While Japanese politicians and the media like to play up the China rise factor, China-Japan relations really worsened in the late 1990s when the US and Japan redefined the US-Japan Security Treaty. Is the hawkishness we’re seeing today but an upgraded version of those readjustments?