Alliance (alliances and partnership) is the key to diplomacy. China has adopted a proactive stance in developing alliances, including the establishment of the AIIB and the implementation of the sea and land Silk Road initiatives, as well as through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICs, China-ASEAN Summit Meetings, the China-Africa Forum, and economic and military aid to Pakistan and Myanmar. Japan needs to make more strategic use of its alliances, primarily with its ally the United States, as well as bilateral partnership ties with friendly countries and multilateral frameworks.
1. Further Deepen the Japan-U.S. Alliance!
When considering maximizing alliance power through Japanese diplomacy, it is of course important to place the relationship with the United States, Japan’s only ally, at the foundation. To maintain peace and prosperity in East Asia, the Japan-U.S. alliance (based on the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty) is a valuable international public good that must be further strengthened.
Under the Abe administration inaugurated in December 2012, the Japan-U.S. alliance has been growing, which can be highly commended. The revision of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation implemented – for the first time in 18 years – in April 2015 expanded the alliance cooperation between Japan and the United States from limited peripheral areas to worldwide. In the aspect of economic cooperation, the TPP negotiations are approaching the final stages of an agreement. It is important to carefully address immediate issues related to security and economic cooperation one by one.
2. Strengthen Bilateral Partnership Ties with Friendly Countries!
It is also necessary for Japan to increase the number of its partners to as many as possible and deepen its bilateral ties with them.
It is effective to do so firstly with friendly countries, followed by countries that share common values. A common concern in military affairs in the Asian region is the expansion of China. Or, to flip this around, many countries in the region share a common interest in terms of security. Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have recently conducted joint military exercises with South Korea and Australia, and, furthermore, with India. The expansion of joint military exercises should be highly commended. It is extremely important to strengthen partnership ties not only through joint exercises but also through expanding cooperation in security, including technology transfer, throughout Asia.
In the future, Japan should look for second and third alliances following its alliance with the U.S. in the Asian region. While the highest priority should be placed on the Japan-U.S. alliance, it should not necessarily remain Japan’s only alliance forever. Alliances with other countries should further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.
3. Strengthen Partnerships Using Existing Multilateral Frameworks!
In Japan’s multilateral diplomacy, its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region are important. The center of political and economic gravity is moving eastward and in the direction of Asia. China, meanwhile, is vigilantly watching for an opportunity to overthrow the rules of Western countries and establish a framework in which it can exert its leadership. It is a life-or-death issue for Japan to maintain a leadership position in the existing multilateral frameworks of the Asia-Pacific region comprising ASEAN+3, APEC, the East Asia Summit (EAS) and, furthermore, in the G7.
4. Strengthen Japan-led Multilateral Talks!
The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) is an international conference on the theme of African development hosted by the Japanese government since 1993 in cooperation with the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank. Japan has also held the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting since 1997 in cooperation with South Pacific countries. These frameworks include many countries and therefore play an important role when it comes to voting at the United Nations. Japan should make the maximum use of these Japan-led frameworks.