NewsWorldANALYSIS | Japan moves away from post-WWII pacifism...

ANALYSIS | Japan moves away from post-WWII pacifism as China threat grows

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US watches China and North Korea’s actions 3:55 (CNN) — Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is a man on a mission. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, he has imposed sanctions on Moscow, agreed to pursue a world free of nuclear weapons with the pope and has made a diplomatic tour of Southeast Asia and Europe to bring together world leaders to protect democracy. But it is not just democracy in Ukraine that he is trying to protect: Kishida sees parallels between Russia’s actions in Europe and China’s expansion into the Indo-Pacific, a region stretching from the Pacific coast of the United States to the Indian Ocean. “We strongly oppose any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force, regardless of location,” Kishida said in a joint statement with European Union leaders in May. The same statement included a clause expressing “serious concern over reports of militarization, coercion and intimidation in the South China Sea,” though it did not name China as the aggressor. Japan’s location places it in an increasingly volatile security environment, flanked by China to the south, nuclear-armed North Korea to the west and Russia to the north. As a result, the war in Ukraine has catalyzed debates about Japan’s national security like never before. In April, members of the country’s ruling party put forward a proposal to increase the country’s defense budget from 1% to 2%, in line with NATO members, and develop “counter-strike capabilities,” a move that heralds great changes to Japan’s longstanding pacifist security posture. But Tokyo doesn’t just invest in its defense, it uses diplomacy to strengthen its relations in the region and beyond. Ahead of Kishida’s meeting with US President Joe Biden on Monday, experts say the world’s third-largest economy is reassessing its approach to deterrence and showing itself to be a reliable partner on the world stage. Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican. A Japanese Invention Japan floated its idea of ​​an “arc of freedom and prosperity” that would stretch across the Indo-Pacific and draw in the United States and Australia more than a decade ago. In 2007, Japan’s then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Indian lawmakers that a “wider Asia” was beginning to take shape and implored Delhi to work alongside Tokyo “to nurture and enrich these seas.” It was the beginning of what would become the Quadrilateral (Quad) Security Dialogue, a loose strategic alliance between the US, Australia, India and Japan. Abe’s attempts to unite the Pacific allies came as China overtook Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. Before long, Beijing was promoting its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to develop new trade routes connecting China with the world. China claims sovereignty over almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea and has converted multiple reefs and sandbars, far from its coast, into artificial man-made islands heavily fortified with missiles, airstrips and weapons systems. Observers worried that China’s expansion could eventually allow Beijing to control waterways in the South China Sea, threatening the free flow of trade, so in 2016, Abe updated his idea and introduced the concept of “Indo -Free and Open Pacific (FOIP) Under FOIP, like-minded countries and organizations in Southeast Asia and Africa would safeguard the Indo-Pacific and the trillions of dollars in goods that pass through it each year. Cleo Paskal, Indo-Pacific Strategist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said countries were initially slow to catch up with FOIP.”Many people didn’t think FOIP was a problem as they assumed the seas would be open.” and that people would be free,” he said. “But now we’re realizing that those two things of being free and open are really threatened.” China’s expansion in the region is expected to be one of the p main points of discussion when the Quad leaders meet in Tokyo on Tuesday, following the bilateral meeting between Kishida and Biden. President Joe Biden boards Air Force One for a trip to South Korea and Japan on May 19, 2022. Forging a stronger American security pact Japan’s efforts to unite its democratic allies paid off when the United States adopted FOIP in 2017, giving the concept more weight along with new resources, programs, and partnerships. But now analysts say the US expects Japan to take a stronger leadership role in the region, and Tokyo knows that means it needs to step up its defenses. “Japan recognizes that if it relies solely on the United States, that would not really support political trust between the two sides,” said Ken Jimbo, a national security expert and professor at Keio University. Last December, Kishida announced that the government was exploring options to give Japan the ability to attack enemy bases. Since then, calls have intensified within Japan’s ruling party to develop “counter-strike capabilities” in coordination with the US. The move would stretch the limits of the country’s pacifist constitution, but also Tokyo’s ability to retaliate against terrorists. attacks launched from mobiles and submarines. Japan imposes new sanctions on Russia 0:47 “Japan wants to be able to defend itself in a fight. The country has a very strong part of the population that does not want to depend on external powers to be able to make decisions that may or may not put its sovereignty at risk”, Pascal said. However, there is resistance within the country to any move away from Japan’s pacifist stance. “Popular public opinion still sees Japan as a pacifist country that shouldn’t have the ability to attack others, it should just have enough means to defend itself,” said James Brown, an international relations expert at Temple University. “So that concern has made the government move more slowly on this.” However, the war in Ukraine seems to be changing the attitude. A recent survey by the Asahi Shimbun and the University of Tokyo showed that 64% of the 3,000 people surveyed were in favor of Japan strengthening its defensive capabilities, the highest percentage since the survey began in 2003. China China’s support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine has strengthened Kishida’s mission to protect the integrity of the Indo-Pacific. Not only is he reaching out to larger allies in the United States and Europe, but he is also engaging in diplomacy closer to home to make it clear that Japan is a trusted partner in times of uncertainty. In March, a Japanese delegation visited the Solomon Islands after China and Honiara signed a security pact that some feared could eventually see a Chinese military base in the Pacific. Paskal, the Indo-Pacific analyst, said the diplomatic trip highlights Tokyo’s interest in positioning itself as an alternative security provider. Japan also wants to offer an alternative to China by showcasing its own quality infrastructure projects, which use local labor, have high-quality controls and do not leave unsustainable debt burdens on participating countries, said Thomas Wilkins, a senior fellow at Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Tokyo’s efforts have not gone unnoticed in Beijing. During a video call with his Japanese counterpart on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that even before Biden’s arrival in Asia, the perception that Japan and the United States were united against China “was already rampant.” and had created “a fetid atmosphere,” according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement. Japan’s assertive response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is on par with a country seeking to strengthen democratic ties in its own region. When Quad members meet in Tokyo on Tuesday, they will seek to present a united front that fits with Japan’s original vision of the “arc of freedom and prosperity.” Paskal said that Japan’s leadership in the region was “respected and appreciated.” “Much remains to be done, but it is moving in a way that many observers in Japan did not expect even five years ago,” he said.

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