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Japan-South Korea Relations in 2016: A Return to the Old Normal

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso (R) during the 7th Korea-Japan Finance Dialogue at the Government Complex in Seoul, South Korea August 27, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji) South Korean Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso (R) during the 7th Korea-Japan Finance Dialogue at the Government Complex in Seoul, South Korea August 27, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

This post was coauthored with Brad Glosserman, executive director at Pacific Forum CSIS.

The first nine months of 2016 have been very good for Japan-South Korea relations. In addition to the conclusion of the comfort women agreement at the end of December 2015, the two countries have reached several other bilateral economic and security agreements. This progress and the routinization of Cabinet-level exchanges since last year make clear that their relationship has bottomed out and that pragmatic considerations are prevailing over ideological or political concerns. Credit for that progress goes to constituencies in each country committed to rebuilding the bilateral relationship. Trends in the geopolitical environment have also underscored the advantages of cooperation—and the very real costs of a failure to do so. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 16, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
delhi-mosquito-net A boy covered with a mosquito net sleeps in a cot on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, April 18, 2016. (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Delhi battles major chikungunya outbreak. Over 1,000 people have fallen ill and at least twelve have died due to a major outbreak of chikungunya in Delhi. Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus similar to Zika and dengue, is typically not fatal, but can cause debilitating joint pain along with fever, fatigue, and nausea. Health minister J. P. Nadda has assured the Indian public that chikungunya did not cause the fatalities, but rather exacerbated deadly illnesses that were already ailing the elderly. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 9, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
kim-jong-un-nuclear-test KRT bulletin shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in this still image taken from video on September 9, 2016. North Korea conducted its fifth and biggest nuclear test on Friday and said it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile, ratcheting up a threat that its rivals and the United Nations have been powerless to contain. (KRT via Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. North Korea conducts fifth nuclear test. Pyongyang celebrated the sixty-eighth anniversary of the country’s founding today by conducting its fifth and largest nuclear test. The Nuclear Weapons Institute of the DPRK claims that the nuclear warhead “has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets,” and that the DPRK can now produce “a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of August 26, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
China-Japan-Korea-trilateral Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (second from R) meets South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (L), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (second from L) and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (R) during their meeting at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Japan, August 24, 2016. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. North Korean missile test facilitates China-Japan-South Korea talks. Earlier this week, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida hosted a two-day meeting with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts. The first since March 2015, the talks were slated to focus on increasing regional cooperation; however, North Korea’s Wednesday test of a submarine-launched missile dominated news coverage of the meeting and elicited wholesale criticism from all three foreign ministers. Read more »

Owning Our Constitution, Our Future

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Japan's Masatoshi Ohno rides a wave during the quarterfinals of the Monster Energy Pro Pipeline surfing competition at Sunset Beach, Hawaii, February 23, 2005 (Lucy Pemoni/REUTERS). Japan's Masatoshi Ohno rides a wave during the quarterfinals of the Monster Energy Pro Pipeline surfing competition at Sunset Beach, Hawaii, February 23, 2005 (Lucy Pemoni/REUTERS).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution. Ayumi Teraoka is research associate for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of August 19, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesia-destroys-fishing-boats Four of eight confiscated Vietnamese fishing boats are destroyed in Mempawah Regency, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, February 22, 2016. (Antara Foto/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Indonesia sinks illegal fishing boats. In a move intended to assert sovereignty over resource-rich waters surrounding the Natuna Islands off the Borneo coast, Indonesia sank sixty boats impounded for illegal fishing. Read more »

Constitutional Revision: More Than Yes or No

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
A man raises his hands and shouts "banzai" as he and others gather to watch the sunrise over Mount Fuji, which is known locally as "Diamond Fuji", from atop Ryugatake mountain in Fujikawaguchiko town, southwest of Tokyo January 1, 2010 (Yuriko Nakao/REUTERS). A man raises his hands and shouts "banzai" as he and others gather to watch the sunrise over Mount Fuji, which is known locally as "Diamond Fuji", from atop Ryugatake mountain in Fujikawaguchiko town, southwest of Tokyo January 1, 2010 (Yuriko Nakao/REUTERS).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution. Masatoshi Asaoka is currently a master’s candidate in the Asian studies program of Georgetown University and an intern for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Read more »

The Unbearable Lightness of Our Constitution

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Plato-resized

This blog post is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution.

Keigo Komamura, a Japanese constitutional scholar, is professor of law and vice president of Keio University. He serves on the advisory council for the constitutional revision research project led by Helen Hardacre, Reischauer Institute professor of Japanese religions and society at Harvard University. His most recent publication is an edited volume with Satoshi Machidori, Kenpou kaisei no hikaku seijigaku [Comparative Politics of Constitutional Revision], published by Koubundou Press in 2016.  Read more »

A Constitution Like Air

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Members of the protest group Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy s (SEALDs) shout slogans during a protest outside parliament in Tokyo, August 21, 2015 (Thomas Peter/REUTERS). Members of the protest group Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy s (SEALDs) shout slogans during a protest outside parliament in Tokyo, August 21, 2015 (Thomas Peter/REUTERS).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution. 

Karin Koretsune is a graduate student at Japan Women’s University [Nihon Joshi Daigaku] and a member of the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy s (SEALDs).[1] She is the author of Nihon joshidaisei no yononaka wocchi [A Woman College Student’s View of Japan] (2014). Read more »

The Wishes of the Heisei Emperor

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's Emperor Akihito (2nd R) and Empress Michiko (R) talk with evacuees from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, at Tokyo Budoh-kan, currently an evacuation shelter, in Tokyo, March 30, 2011 ( Issei Kato/Reuters). Japan's Emperor Akihito (2nd R) and Empress Michiko (R) talk with evacuees from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, at Tokyo Budoh-kan, currently an evacuation shelter, in Tokyo, March 30, 2011 ( Issei Kato/Reuters).

On Monday, in a ten-minute video, Japan’s emperor spoke directly to his people, asking them to allow him to give up the throne prior to his death. In the closed world of Japan’s imperial family, where the Imperial Household Agency largely manages and represents the family’s affairs, Akihito’s decision to challenge precedent seems striking. Yet he also spoke directly to the Japanese people. Now in his eighty-second year, Emperor Akihito has sat on the throne for twenty-seven years, assuming his position upon the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, and ushering in a new era in Japan’s history. His reign is called Heisei—roughly translated as an era where peace can be realized—and yet the Heisei years have been full of change—and challenge—for the Japanese people. Read more »