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Asia Unbound

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

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Showing posts for "Sino-Japanese Relations"

Beijing’s Test of Tokyo

by Sheila A. Smith
An airplane belonging China's state oceanic administration flies past south of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea An airplane belonging China's state oceanic administration flies past south of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea December 13, 2012 (11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, Japan Coast Guard/Courtesy Reuters).

Early this morning, East China Sea time, China sent a small reconnaissance plane into Japanese airspace over the Senkaku Islands. Too small to register on Japan’s air defense radar, but large enough to make a point, this propeller jet assigned to the Chinese Marine Surveillance Agency was perfectly timed to take advantage of the distraction of North Korea’s missile launch.

China and Japan have been drawing lines in the waters around the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands for the Chinese) almost daily since the Japanese government under Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda purchased these islands from a private owner on September 11. China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, has consistently argued that Japan escalated the bilateral dispute over these small uninhabited islands by “nationalizing” them. China’s foreign minister Yang Jiechi took his case to the United Nations, where he derided the Japanese government for challenging the post-WWII settlement in Asia. Read more »

Times are Changing in Northeast Asian Waters

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda shakes hands with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Kyoto Japan's prime minister Yoshihiko Noda shakes hands with South Korean president Lee Myung-bak in Kyoto, Japan December 18, 2011 (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters).

A few weeks ago, the blow up between Tokyo and Beijing over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands captured out attention. But a little less conspicuous is the new era of Japan-South Korean tensions in the seas of Northeast Asia. The eruption of tensions between Tokyo and Seoul resulted after South Korean president Lee Myung-bak visited islands at the center of a territorial dispute between the two U.S. allies.

News reports in Tokyo and Seoul last week revealed that on September 21 the South Korean air force sent F-15K fighter jets to respond to a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) helicopter that had entered the South Korean air defense zone without notification. Read more »

A Deep Chill or Heated Clash for Japan and China?

by Sheila A. Smith
Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka (left) and Chinese premier Zhou Enlai meet in Beijing for the first Sino-Japanese summit on September 25, 1972 (Courtesy Jiji Press). Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka (left) and Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (right) meet in Beijing for the first Sino-Japanese summit on September 25, 1972 (Courtesy Jiji Press).

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda departed Tokyo today for the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, and Japan’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Chikao Kawai, departed for Beijing. At best, a chill lies ahead for the Japan-China relationship. At worst, a confrontation in the waters around the disputed islands in the East China Sea could propel the two Asian giants into a very dangerous scenario.

The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute will be high on the UN agenda. Washington and other regional powers should assist in finding a credible mechanism for peaceful dispute resolution before this crisis worsens. Read more »

Nationalism and the China-Japan Island Disputes

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
Protesters hold Chinese national flags and a poster showing the disputed Islands, called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China, on the 81st anniversary of Japan's invasion of China, in Chengdu. Protesters hold Chinese national flags and a poster showing the disputed Islands, called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China, on the 81st anniversary of Japan's invasion of China, in Chengdu, Sichuan province, September 18, 2012. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Professor Yinan He, an expert on Sino-Japanese relations, offers her assessment on the ongoing crisis over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

In the past week mass protests against Japan’s nationalization of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands have swept Chinese cities across both coastal and inland areas, unprecedented since 2005 when many Chinese took to the streets to oppose Japan’s revision of history textbooks that whitewashed its wartime aggression. Since then, the damage has been slowly mended thanks to years of painstaking diplomatic efforts on both sides. But in no time things have been pushed back to square one—or even worse. Read more »

Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya, 1952–2012

by Sheila A. Smith
Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya (File Photo/Courtesy Consulate General of Japan in New York). Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya (File Photo/Courtesy Consulate General of Japan in New York).

Japan’s newly appointed ambassador to China, Shinichi Nishimiya, passed away suddenly yesterday in Tokyo. He was hospitalized last week after collapsing outside his home. Ambassador Nishimiya was sixty years old.

Ambassador Nishimiya was well-known in the United States as one of Japan’s most energetic and passionate diplomats. Educated in the United Kingdom, he represented Japan here in United States multiple times, and he emerged as one of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ leading America hands. Read more »

Sixty-seven Years After WWII, Northeast Asian Nationalisms Flare Again

by Sheila A. Smith
A Japan Coast Guard patrol ship sails around a Hong Kong fishing boat near the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan or Diaoyu in China A Japan Coast Guard patrol ship sails around a Hong Kong fishing boat near the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan or Diaoyu in China August 15, 2012 (Japan Coast Guard/Courtesy Reuters).

August 15 marks the anniversary of the end of World War II in Asia. Japan’s defeat was complete, and its losses unprecedented. Today, Japanese television coverage traced the final days of devastation, with those who lived through the war (now in their 80s) narrating accounts of the firebombing that ruined most of Tokyo and the atomic bombing that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For Japanese it continues to be a day of national mourning for those lost, and an annual opportunity to remind the nation and its neighbors of Japan’s postwar commitment to peace. Read more »

Prime Minister Noda’s Year-end Strategic Tour

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda inspects a guard of honour during his ceremonial reception at the presidential palace in New Delhi

Japan's prime minister Yoshihiko Noda inspects a guard of honour during his ceremonial reception at the presidential palace in New Delhi December 28, 2011 (B Mathur/Courtesy Reuters).

Unlike many of us, Japan’s prime minister did not sit back and rest at year’s end. Rather, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda took to the road to visit two of Asia’s ascending powers. He spent Christmas in Beijing, after a planned visit for earlier in December was unexpectedly postponed by China’s leaders. Yet it was his trip to New Delhi on December 27–28 that energized Tokyo’s diplomatic agenda.

Noda’s willingness to rearrange his schedule to accommodate China’s desire to change the summit dates reflects an awareness of the delicacy of the moment for Beijing. The original date of the summit coincided with the deeply painful anniversary of World War II atrocities, the day Japanese Imperial Army troops captured the city of Nanjing. Postponing a planned summit meeting may be unprecedented, yet it leaves us wondering why Beijing’s leaders did not appreciate the domestic impact of hosting Japan’s leader when they picked the date. That they saw fit to ask Tokyo to reschedule reveals perhaps a bit more confusion in Beijing than is usual. But it also reveals the efforts Japanese and Chinese governments together are making to get this important bilateral relationship back on a sound footing. Read more »

Is Japan’s New PM a “Nationalist” or a “Moderate”?

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's next prime minister Yoshihiko Noda attends the lower house of parliament in Tokyo August 30, 2011.

Japan's next prime minister Yoshihiko Noda attends the lower house of parliament in Tokyo August 30, 2011 (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, my colleague Elizabeth Economy raised an important question in her blog post about Japan’s new prime minister Yoshihiko Noda. I had characterized him as a moderate, yet for many in China and Korea he is a right-wing nationalist. So which is it?

Noda is both a moderate, and a nationalist. At home, in the context of Japan’s leadership politics, he is a self-described “middle of the road” politician. In an essay in Bungei Shunju this month, Noda outlines his governance vision and firmly places himself in the moderate middle of the policy agenda—a comfortable place for those wishing to bring divisive factions together.

As I wrote in ForeignAffairs.com, Noda’s domestic agenda is full. Yet, diplomatic challenges abound—and particularly this coming year in Northeast Asia—as the politics of transition make every nation in the region sensitive to the reactive nationalism that is so often triggered in political campaigns and leadership transitions.

Read more »

Why China Worries About Japanese Prime Minister Noda

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Japan's Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda stands up as he is chosen as the party's new leader while the party lawmakers clap their hands during Japan's ruling Democratic Party of Japan leadership vote in Tokyo on August 29, 2011.

Japan's Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda stands up as he is chosen as the party's new leader while the party lawmakers clap their hands during Japan's ruling Democratic Party of Japan leadership vote in Tokyo on August 29, 2011. (Toru Hanai/Courtesy of Reuters)

In her First Take on Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, my colleague Sheila Smith suggests that Mr. Noda is moderate, fair, and an experienced hand in Japanese and global financial affairs. That all sounds pretty good. But apparently from China’s perspective, the new prime minister is nothing but trouble.

While Premier Wen Jiabao and the Chinese Foreign Ministry have offered up short congratulatory statements to the new prime minister, most Chinese commentary has ranged from bleak to belligerent. Chinese analysts point out that the prime minister has not renounced his comments to the effect that Class-A Japanese wartime leaders should no longer be considered criminals nor has he committed not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine. He also has made reference to China’s rising nationalism and naval activities as posing a risk to regional stability. To top it all off, the new prime minister has been a strong supporter of the U.S.-Japan defense alliance.

Given the new prime minister’s apparent policy predilections, it seems to me that Chinese analysts have some reason to be concerned. Read more »

Japan’s Loss

by Sheila A. Smith
Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told a news conference on Sunday he would resign following criticism for accepting political donations from a foreign national, the latest blow to unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan's troubled government.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told a news conference on Sunday he would resign following criticism for accepting political donations from a foreign national, the latest blow to unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan's troubled government. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

The abrupt resignation of Japan’s Foreign Minister, Seiji Maehara, has left the Kan cabinet reeling. Opposition party leaders smell blood and their gleeful calls for the prime minister’s resignation or for a general election suggest that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) may be fatally wounded. But there is no victory here to be celebrated.

Japan’s project of political reform is badly served by this level of carnage. Seiji Maehara is not the first of the DPJ’s talents to be handicapped, nor is he likely to be the last. But he is one of Japan’s brightest political stars, and for virtually all outside of Japan, he was a reassuring presence in a party that came to power with few foreign policy experts in its ranks. Like other next generation leaders of the party, Maehara is intelligent, policy savvy—particularly in his favored area of foreign and security policy—and clear in his purpose of serving his country. Some argue he had his faults:  he was outspoken and rushed to judgment. Chinese officials and media targeted him as too tough on China.

Read more »