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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 "U.S.-Japan Relations"

Can Abe Build Support for Security Reforms?

by Sheila A. Smith
Empty voting boxes are seen at a ballot counting center for the upper house election in Tokyo July 21, 2013 Empty voting boxes are seen at a ballot counting center for the upper house election in Tokyo July 21, 2013. (Yuya Shino/Courtesy Reuters)

Even as regional challenges to Japan’s security have intensified, the domestic debate over security reforms continues to reveal deep divisions in Japan. Since coming into office a year and a half ago, the Shinzo Abe cabinet has sought an overhaul of its security policy, including a revision of the U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation guidelines that shape alliance military planning. Abe’s predecessor, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), argued for similar alliance reforms. Upgrading alliance cooperation has not been an easy process as political change in Japan has created a complex legislative balance in the Diet. Read more »

Reinterpreting Japan’s Constitution

by Sheila A. Smith
A protester raises a placard as they gather at a rally against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role in front of Abe's official residence in Tokyo June 30, 2014 A protester raises a placard as they gather at a rally against Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role in front of Abe's official residence in Tokyo June 30, 2014. (Issei Kato/Courtesy Reuters)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed a reinterpretation of Japan’s postwar constitution to allow the military to use force alongside other national militaries, a right that postwar Japanese leaders have to date refused their Self-Defense Force (SDF). Japan’s decision will shape the way the SDF cooperates not only with the U.S. military but with other militaries in Asia, where relations are increasingly fraught. Japan has already expanded its security consultations with a variety of regional powers, including Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, and India, and has relaxed restrictions on the transfer of military technology. Now, the SDF could play a role in building regional military coalitions. Read more »

Japan’s New Conversation on Its Constitution

by Sheila A. Smith
Article 9 (from 4th L to the edge of left) is seen on the replica of an official original copy of the Constitution of Japan, during a photo opportunity at National Archives of Japan in Tokyo May 21, 2013 Article 9 (from 4th L to the edge of left) is seen on the replica of an official original copy of the Constitution of Japan, during a photo opportunity at National Archives of Japan in Tokyo May 21, 2013. (Issei Kato/Courtesy Reuters)

On Thursday, the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security presented Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with its long anticipated report advocating for loosening the restraints on the use of force by the Japanese military. The panel advocates a reinterpretation of the Constitution to allow the SDF to use force on behalf of other nations.

This call for an expansive review of existing policy on how the Self-Defense Force (SDF) currently operates, however, is not government policy. In his statement yesterday, Abe outlined a narrower ambition. Over the remainder of this year and into the next, we should expect to see an important debate in Japan over how to honor the spirit of the postwar Constitution while revisiting this question of when and how the Japanese military can use force. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 25, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
President Barack Obama reviews an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on April 24, 2014 (Shizuo Kambayashi/Courtesy: Reuters). President Barack Obama reviews an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on April 24, 2014 (Shizuo Kambayashi/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Obama on a four-country tour of Asia to reassure allies and reinforce U.S. rebalancing. Obama began his Asia tour in Japan, where he discussed trade negotiations (see story below). He made waves when he reassured Japan that Washington was committed to its defense, including in the East China Sea, where maritime disputes between China and Japan have caused skirmishes and tension. Read more »

Obama’s Mission in Asia: Bring the Allies Together

by Scott A. Snyder
park-obama-abe-at-the-hague U.S. president Barack Obama hosted a trilateral meeting with South Korean president Park Geun-hye Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

President Obama took an important step before this week’s visit to Asia by bringing together Japanese and South Korean leaders for a trilateral summit at The Hague a few weeks ago. That meeting sent a crucial message that the president should hammer home at every opportunity in Asia this week: for the Obama administration’s rebalancing strategy toward Asia to be successful, America and its allies must work more closely with each other. Read more »

Our Anxiety as the President Heads to Asia

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. President Barack Obama walks among Cherry Blossoms in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington March 20, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama walks among cherry blossoms in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington March 20, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

Anxiety is everywhere these days in the debate over U.S. policy toward Asia. Here in Washington, there seems to be deep anxiety about the Obama administration’s ability to fulfill its promise to rebalance to Asia. In Asia itself, the anxiety is more about the staying power of the United States in a region undergoing a challenging geostrategic shift, and often that anxiety is manifest not in what the United States does on a daily basis but in what the president will or will not say out loud when he goes there next week.

There is reason for anxiety, to be sure. But let’s make sure we are anxious about what matters. Let’s have a conversation about policy goals instead of atmospherics and personalities. And, rather than declare Obama’s visit to Asia doomed before it even begins, it might be wise to consider on balance the positive accomplishments as well as the limitations of current U.S. policy initiatives in Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 11, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
india-electonic-voting-booth A voter looks at an electronic voting machine before casting his vote inside a booth at a polling station in Bhangel village on the outskirts of New Delhi on April 10, 2014. Around 815 million people have registered to vote in the world's biggest election—a number exceeding the population of Europe and a world record—and results of the mammoth exercise, which concludes on May 12, are due on May 16 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Indian election underway. With over 814 million eligible voters, India’s election is the largest democratic undertaking in history and will take place over a period of five weeks in nine phases—three of which were completed this week. On Thursday, constituencies were at stake in eleven of India’s states and three federally administered territories. India’s Election Commission reported impressive voter turnout in most regions, including over 60 percent turnout in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Read more »

The President as Facilitator in Chief

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a tri-lateral meeting with President Park Geun-hye of the South Korea (L) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (R) after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague March 25, 2014 U.S. president Barack Obama holds a tri-lateral meeting with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea (L) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (R) after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague March 25, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

As if on cue, Pyongyang yet again emphasized the importance of trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea when it fired two Nodong missiles into the Sea of Japan. The timing was perfect—President Barack Obama was meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-hye at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. The focus of their talks? North Korea’s threat to regional security. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 21, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea holds a copy of his report during a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva February 17, 2014 Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea holds a copy of his report during a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva February 17, 2014. (Denis Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters)

Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. UN releases report on North Korean human rights violations. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) on human rights in North Korea, established in March 2013, released its findings on February 17, 2014. Led by former Australian high court justice Michael Kirby, the commission was tasked with investigating “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights…with a mind in view to ensuring full accountability, in particular for violations which may constitute crimes against humanity.” Read more »

An East China Sea Update

by Sheila A. Smith
Admiral Samuel J. Locklear (L), Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their talks at the Abe's official residence in Tokyo February 3, 2014 Admiral Samuel J. Locklear (L), Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their talks at the Abe's official residence in Tokyo February 3, 2014. (Kimimasa Mayama/Courtesy Reuters)

Since China announced its new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on November 23, there has been much debate over what this means for the U.S.-Japan alliance. In the East China Sea, the acute political tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over the Senkaku Islands have not abated nor has Beijing responded to Japan’s call for developing maritime risk reduction mechanisms. Meanwhile, a recent Nikkei poll revealed that 84 percent of its respondents were “anxious” about relations with Washington. Read more »