CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Posts by Author

Showing posts for "Sheila A. Smith"

Abe’s Diplomatic Agenda

by Sheila A. Smith
Visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inspects the honour guard during the state welcoming ceremony in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur July 25, 2013 Visiting Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe inspects the honor guard during the state welcoming ceremony in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur July 25, 2013 (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters).

Now that the Upper House election is over, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition has control over both houses in parliament, many expect Abe to begin addressing the difficult domestic policy issues on his agenda. In an article I published yesterday for the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, I point out that Abe’s foreign policy choices will also greatly affect Japan’s future, particularly when it comes to how he manages three critical relationships: China, South Korea, and the United States. The first two will require Abe to address issues of deep historical distrust, while the last will test Abe’s ability to move forward long-overdue conversations on Japan-U.S. military cooperation. Read more »

Okinawa and Tokyo Today

by Sheila A. Smith
Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima (Issei Kato/courtesy Reuters) Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima (Issei Kato/courtesy Reuters)

My visit to Okinawa two weeks ago provided the opportunity to think about what has happened there over the past seventeen years, as the U.S. and Japanese governments have struggled to find a replacement facility for the Futenma Marine Air Station. Yet is it also important to recognize that national politics have changed considerably over this time, as have regional security dynamics. Today, the government in Okinawa faces new decisions, with as yet uncertain consequences for the effort to close Futenma. Read more »

Abe Reassures After Election Victory

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe (L), who is also the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), puts a rosette on a name of a candidate, next to the party secretary-general Shigeru Ishiba, at the party headquarters in Tokyo July 21, 2013. Abe's ruling bloc won a decisive victory in an upper house election on Sunday, cementing his grip on power and setting the stage for Japan's first stable government since the charismatic Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006. (Issei Kato/courtesy Reuters) Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe (L), who is also the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), puts a rosette on a name of a candidate, next to the party secretary-general Shigeru Ishiba, at the party headquarters in Tokyo July 21, 2013. Abe's ruling bloc won a decisive victory in an upper house election on Sunday, cementing his grip on power and setting the stage for Japan's first stable government since the charismatic Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006. (Issei Kato/courtesy Reuters)

As expected, Japan’s ruling coalition won a majority in Sunday’s Upper House election, earning majority control of both houses of parliament for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The standoff between Upper and Lower Houses that began in 2007—what became known as the “twisted Diet”—is over. The question now is what the Abe cabinet will do with this legislative majority, and what priorities he will bring to Japanese governance over the next three years. Read more »

Okinawa, Then and Now

by Sheila A. Smith
Citizen protest signs decorate the fence that borders U.S. Marine base Camp Schwab, where the U.S. and Japanese governments hope to build a new runway. Signs include protests against the Osprey and also ask for protection of the endangered manatee habitat. July 10, 2013 (Sheila Smith) Citizen protest signs decorate the fence that borders U.S. Marine base Camp Schwab, where the U.S. and Japanese governments hope to build a new runway. Signs include protests against the Osprey and also ask for protection of the endangered manatee habitat. July 10, 2013 (Sheila Smith)

For seventeen years, the U.S. and Japanese governments have sought to relocate the U.S. Marines from a heavily congested municipality to a more remote, rural one in northern Okinawa. Futenma Marine Air Station, however, remains open, and the prospects for relocation seem as unfathomable as ever. This past week, I revisited Okinawa, and these are my impressions of what has changed over the many years since I first came here to do research on the base protest movement in the late 1990s. Read more »

Japan’s Upper House Election

by Sheila A. Smith
(L-R) Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima, People's Life Party leader Ichiro Ozawa, New Komeito's Party Leader Natsuo Yamaguchi, Democratic Party of Japan leader Banri Kaieda, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Japan Restoration Party co-leader Toru Hashimoto, Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe, Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii, and Green Wind party leader Kuniko Tanioka pose for photos before their debate session ahead of the July 21 Upper house election in Tokyo July 3, 2013. (Toru Hanai/courtesy Reuters) (L-R) Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima, People's Life Party leader Ichiro Ozawa, New Komeito's Party Leader Natsuo Yamaguchi, Democratic Party of Japan leader Banri Kaieda, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Japan Restoration Party co-leader Toru Hashimoto, Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe, Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii, and Green Wind party leader Kuniko Tanioka pose for photos before their debate session ahead of the July 21 Upper house election in Tokyo July 3, 2013. (Toru Hanai/courtesy Reuters)

Last week, campaigning began for this year’s parliamentary election on July 21.  433 candidates have registered to contend for the 121 open slots in Japan’s 242-seat Upper House.  The ruling coalition needs sixty-three seats to gain a majority.  If they can get seventy-two seats, the Liberal Democrats, Prime Minister Abe’s party, could gain a commanding majority on their own, propelling them back into a position of single party dominance in both of Japan’s houses of parliament. Read more »

Why Resurrect the Divisive Politics of Yasukuni?

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's deputy prime minister Taro Aso (2nd R) bows as he visits the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo April 21, 2013 (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters). Japan's deputy prime minister Taro Aso (2nd R) bows as he visits the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo April 21, 2013 (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters).

Just as I thought I could put the finishing touches on my book manuscript, Japanese Domestic Politics and the Rise of China (Columbia University Press), which has a chapter on Yasukuni, the issue erupted again to confound Japan’s diplomatic relations.

The revival of Yasukuni Shrine visits presents a serious diplomatic setback for Tokyo. The costs have been high and the benefits hard to find. (Jennifer Lind wrote a great piece on this in March before this week’s headlines.)

More importantly, it reveals the reactive nationalisms afoot in Northeast Asia that are dangerous and unpredictable. Read more »

Japan Prepares for Pyongyang’s Worst

by Sheila A. Smith
Members of the Japan Self-Defence Forces stand guard near Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) land-to-air missiles, deployed at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo December 7, 2012 Members of the Japan Self-Defence Forces stand guard near Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) land-to-air missiles, deployed at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo December 7, 2012 (Issei Kato/Courtesy Reuters).

Tokyo has thus far kept a low profile as Seoul and Washington responded to the steady stream of threats emanating from Pyongyang. Today, however, as governments around the region prepare for a likely missile launch, and perhaps even another nuclear test, the Abe cabinet announced serious preparations to defend Japan against possible attack. Read more »

Post-Summit Decisions for Prime Minister Abe

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference at a Washington hotel, February 22, 2013 Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference at a Washington hotel during his visit to meet with President Barack Obama February 22, 2013 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, returned to Tokyo this weekend after his first summit meeting in Washington with President Barack Obama. Post-summit, Abe faces two important economic decisions. The first is his nomination for the next governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ). The second is whether Japan’s prime minister will urge his party onwards to participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). To succeed, Abe now has to confront some political hurdles at home. Read more »

Who’s in Charge?

by Sheila A. Smith
A Chinese vessel pointed a type of radar normally used to help guide missiles at a Japanese navy ship near disputed East China Sea islets, prompting the Japanese government to lodge a protest with China On January 30, a Chinese naval frigate pointed a type of radar normally used to help guide missiles at Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Yudachi (pictured above) near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Stock photo February 5, 2013 (MSDF/Courtesy Reuters).

This week yet another ratcheting up of tensions between Japanese and Chinese forces in the East China Sea drew our attention. Alongside the incremental escalation of danger inherent in these interactions is the dueling narratives about what is actually happening on the ground—or, more accurately, on the water and in the air. The confusing stories coming out of Northeast Asian capitals only complicate an already worrisome  situation, one that could easily result in a local commander behaving badly or miscalculating. Read more »

Presidential Inbox: U.S. Policy in Northeast Asia

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. President Barack Obama attends the East Asia Summit plenary session in Phnom Penh alongside then Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao U.S. President Barack Obama attends the East Asia Summit plenary session in Phnom Penh alongside then Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao November 20, 2012 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

President Obama,

As you consider America’s foreign policy challenges, I would urge you to pay particular attention to Northeast Asia. I believe U.S. policy will be tested in this part of Asia, and that our maritime commitments in particular will require clear and committed action. There are leadership transitions there too that deserve some of your personal engagement in building trust.

Let me suggest three areas where I think significant policy attention is warranted. Read more »